Words have always mattered to me.
I never bought into that “sticks and stones” thing. A lot of crap that was. Words certainly do hurt you from time to time.
However, it is not about the words that hurt that I wish to write, but rather, the words that inspire and adorn our world with all that is good.
For me, it all started with my mother.
She had several expressions or sayings that she would often regale all of her family who would listen. Of course, we all listened.
Momma always attributed these pithy words to her own mother, Mary Dowd McHugh.
To be sure, I only got to appreciate the inherent wisdom of her words as I got older. Some of them infuriated me when I was a kid.
“Don’t let little things bother you.”
The times when life got the better of me and my frustration with not getting my way often resulted in this advice from my mother.
Don’t let little things bother you.
In all my frustration, I was trying to overcome the cause of frustration which, to me, was trying not to let little things bother me. My problem is I never really understood what my mother meant.
She wasn’t telling me anything about overcoming my particular problem of the day. Instead, she was telling me to forget about this minor issue. She really meant don’t sweat the small stuff. But I was too young to understand…until yesterday, I think.
Then, of course, she would often drift into the classics.
“Too much of anything is good for nothing.”
I think this is a catchier version of “Moderation in all things.”
So, Lizzie McHugh was a Greek and Roman literature student but put her own spin on the adage.
Then, of course, she used the Bard himself to have us scurry into our bedroom when it was time for bed.
“To bed to bed, there’s a knocking at the gate.”
I really thought she made this one up. But then I read Macbeth in high school, and sure enough, it was in Act V.
My mother taught me other things, but these were her classics, so I thought I would share them.
And, of course, others in my life inspired me with their words.
“Oh yeah, I’ll tell you something. I think you’ll understand.”
That still gives me goosebumps, just like it did that first time I heard it in the fall of 1963. Of course, I Want To Hold Your Hand by the Beatles is the sort of this lyric of all lyrics.
It possesses such power as to start a revolution. A revolution inspired by the concept of holding a loved one’s hand. Years before the sexual revolution, it was as erotic as it got. Goosebumps rather than lust was its outcome, and fifty-nine years later, I still have to stop typing and calm myself down.
Transitioning from the time of teenage love and romance to the words of Christ.
Ironically, it was about the same time in 1963 that I began to take the words of Christ to heart.
The Prodigal Son and other of Christ’s parables of forgiveness illustrated that God was not mad at me or disappointed with me. Christ showed the infinite ability to love and forgive. I realized both actions cost me nothing.
It didn’t matter how many people I loved because there was always enough love for one more. Forgiveness? When would you stop forgiving someone? Is it about the same time you would no longer require forgiveness for your transgressions?
I then turned to the Our Father.
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive the trespasses of others.?
Mother of Mercy! Do you mean I have to forgive others all the time when they offend me? Yeah, Jimmy, that’s what it means. Otherwise, you will run out of forgiveness sooner rather than later.
There’s no better time to introduce the words of Bob Dylan than right after writing about Christ.
“Blowin In The Wind.”
Perhaps Dylan’s most important song poses nine questions. The answers, however, were not provided, merely suggesting that the answers are Blowin In The Wind.
Go listen to the song or at least read the lyrics.
You will realize that the answer to each and every one of the questions is simply “Too Many.”
JFK inspired us to look for help rather than ask for help.
MLK dared us to dream along with him.
We were a divided nation in 1963 and 1968, and while our hatred may have gone on hiatus for a spell, it was still percolating under the surface.
We seem to be at a loss as to which words can release us from this tailspin in which we find ourselves. I don’t think we really hate each other, but maybe we’re just afraid to grasp that hand of the other in a commitment of friendship, if not full-blown love.