Our fifth child was born premature, spent time in the NICU and has various developmental delays. Recently, a friend and I were talking about any future children I might conceive when she made the comment, “Well, your early delivery with your fourth child was your warning sign.”
What was that supposed to mean? That because we chose to have a fifth we brought this on ourselves? That it’s somehow our fault our child was born premature? Or, did her comment really just mean she was worried about me? I think it’s probably the latter. She followed up her initial observation by telling me that every time she visited us in the hospital she went home and cried. That gave me pause to think. How can our words lift someone up or bring them down?
During a recent homily, the priest shared the old adage: “Talk is cheap.” He followed it by saying if talk really is cheap, if it costs us nothing, then what we say should be thought about carefully. It should glorify God and it should witness to our love of Christ. Whoa. How did I send my husband off to work this morning? Did I have words of praise or criticism for my children as they scurried off to school? Does my preschooler feel loved by my words or inadequate in her ability to accomplish a task because I brushed her off? On some days I would be proud to answer those questions, other days, I would rather crawl in the black hole.
The many hospital stays with our preemie gave me ample moments of prayer and reflection. I was able to have conversations with friends I might not have had otherwise. The pretenses were laid down and we spoke freely. I lovingly say, I got to see the amazing compassion of my friends and family through their words and actions. Just when I needed it most, a word of advice or inspiration was shared and the burden lifted. But, I don’t believe it takes a tragedy for words to be meaningful.
As we engage in conversations, both virtual and in-person, how is Christ present? If a stranger were to overhear us would they be inspired or appalled? If words were all we had, I wonder what the world might think of me. I’m hopeful that they would see a woman who’s confident and proud. A mother who fiercely loves her children. A wife who thinks she married the love of her life. An Aggie who dreams of winning a national championship in football. Hey, never underestimate the power of a sense of humor.
There’s nothing I love more than receiving a handwritten note. As I was cleaning out the files, readying my office for the new year, I came across several gems. They made me smile. There were birthday greetings, get well wishes and even a few that brought me back to my childhood. As hard as I looked though, I couldn’t find a single negative card. You see, we only keep the ones that lift us up, the ones that renew our spirit, that remind us that we’re loved.
May what we say today lift someone else up, renew their spirit, remind them that they’re loved. May someone else hear Jesus through us.