When my stepson, Jakob, wants something he typically communicates via an assistive application on his iPad. The phrase “I want popsicle please,” spoken in a computerized voice, is frequently heard in our household.
But he often tries to get away with an “uhhhhh”, while simultaneously pointing to whatever it is he wants. Kerri and I have to remind him, “Use your words.” We either prompt him to speak (assuming it’s a word he’s practiced) or use the iPad.
The ability to speak and articulate with a voice is, for most of us, something easily taken for granted.
When I was seventeen I was involved in a bicycle accident that I was fortunate to survive. But escaping death wasn’t the end of the story. For the next several weeks there was a question as to whether I would be able to speak again. This was devastating news to someone considering becoming a pastor. Thankfully, I recovered.
I’ve often understood my recovery in terms of a calling to, not only use “my words,” but to choose my words carefully. I felt called to speak up for those whose voice is muted or who have no voice at all: like the marginalized, the dehumanized, the ignored, and even people like Jakob. I haven’t always used my voice in the most faithful and productive way. But these last few months in my new role as a stepfather to a child with autism and apraxia have helped me regain some perspective.
Words have power- the power to convey hate or love, indifference or compassion, injury or healing, division or reconciliation, and so on.
Unfortunately, I fear our world is losing its verbal nerve. Public speech is sour and toxic. Interpersonal conversation is often disingenuous. Words between loved ones are often sharp. Hateful and snarky comments plague social media. Productive dialogue is broken.
The words we choose have real consequences. The health of our personal relationships, as well as our local and global communities depend, in part, on how we communicate with one another.
This poignant video was shared with me today. It’s a couple of years old but it’s new to me. Its message is on point. Enjoy.