Monday, March 26, 2007

Words Matter

As I told you Friday, I went to Boston this weekend for the USA Masters Indoor Championship track meet over the weekend. After running two hard races on Sunday, I arrived home last night a little after midnight. I had to fly from Boston to Houston, and then backtrack from Houston to Dallas, a total of 5-6 hours in the air with a very gabby seat mate. So, I was remarkably fatigued, both mentally and physically as I sat here in my office chair around 1 am thinking about the whole of the weekend. I re-learned something this weekend, and I want to tell you what the renewal involved.I say re-learned because I know this particular fact of life and yet I often need to re-learn old wisdoms.

Sunday I was waiting in my lane before the finals of the 200 meter dash. Legendary track announcer Peter Taylor was announcing the six finalists to the crowd at Reggie Lewis Center prior to the start of the race. I was in the upper lane, lane six, and so I was the last to be announced. The race included two of my teammates who are members of the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame and hold individual world records, their resumes are impeccable. I fidgeted and adjusted my blocks, listened to the credentials of my friends, monster sprinters I was about to compete against, and I wondered what Mr. Taylor would have to tell the crowd about me. When he came to lane six he told the crowd of my usual credentials and yet had not given them my name on his pass through the introduction. As he was summing up, he said “he is often known as Seven, but his real name is Rick Riddle.” I wasn’t completely caught off guard because Mr. Taylor had chatted with me earlier about reading the blog, but I was very surprised to imagine my writing name had been linked to my track career and indeed to my very persona in front of a crowd of track fans and fellow track athletes 1,500 miles from my home.

And what did I re-learn from this incident?

It’s a lesson as simple as kindergarten really. It is this; ‘Our Words Matter.’ Our words have power and they hold meaning about what we are, what we think and in fact, our words form an image for how others perceive our motivations and behaviors. I didn’t know a famous and highly regarded track announcer had ever seen my little blog attempts at describing my world, but he has. And it is logical to assume his understanding of my beliefs and personality has been structured by his reading.

That is a scary proposition to consider for many of us that love to write. It can be equally scary for those that love to talk.

We can wring the scary out of the proposition. We can discipline ourselves to use our words in ways that are meaningful yet truthful. We can choose words that are charitable yet authentic. We must choose them wisely. We must understand we can hurt and create damage with careless words. We will fail at times. There were masters athletes this year that took nasty tumbles after furious dives at the finish line, their bodies depleted from the racing effort. They got up and they raced again the next day. This is how it is with words I believe. We will fall down. We will misuse our words sometimes. But we must get back up and use the words that define our intent, beliefs and even love, and we must do it even after falling or failing. And of course we must always use our words with whatever wisdom we can summon.

What the elder track cat, ‘sometimes known as Seven’ re-learned this weekend is that his words matter. If I fall, maybe you will pick me up with your own kind words. Thank you, Mr. Taylor, for reminding me with your own kind and instructive introduction.


Robert Shapiro said...

Rick, the evidence of your words often opens a new page into the feelings so profoundly and illustratively displayed by your heart. Continue my friend.


patti_cake said...

I would have loved to see the look of surprsie on your face!
So... howdja do?
P.S. I hate gabby seatmates!

Silent One ~D~ said...

I agree... our words do matter. No matter which language they are in... all words have a profound effect on us.

kathi said...

A lesson worth 're-learing' and one worth sharing. Thank you.

Rick said...

True dat. If I could only hold my tongue.

Seven said...

I bow to your consistency, both in word and kindness. You are the embodiment of the wise use of your word.

I finished third in the 200 meters behind my famous and amazingly fast teammates. Still, third fastest in the USA is OK with me. The woman on the plane that wouldn't shut up hardly knew I wasn't listening, she rarely paused!

Silent Girl,
I really enjoyed your account of your native family gathering. I hope everyone will go take a look at your post.

You are always so supportive and kind, I know you understand this thing about words.

I know. I know.

Mayden's Voyage said...

Beautifully said- and a big smile to you for a race well run :D

In addition to the power of our words, I find that sometimes a lack of words, or silence- can be as dangerous and painful as when we use our words poorly-

Years ago I had some neighbors that I knew distantly. We lived in different sections of the neighborhood- but I worked for the developer- so I basically knew everyone in the subdivision.

Their baby died, around 6 weeks, of "Crib death"- and it was the first time I had ever been exposed to such a loss (I was about 21).

I couldn't go over to their house and tell them how sorry I was...I thought that my deep sadness over their loss would make them more sad- so I didn't say anything.

But when the grandmother wandered over to my office in the club house- just out for a walk a few days after the funeral- I went out and spoke to her.
Within minutes- this woman and I were holding hands, both weeping- her heart broken over her only grandchild...and mine broken over her grief.

I don't remember what I said- except that I expressed how very sorry I was. I'm sure my words were a jumbled mess...and why I ached for this family I only knew in passing felt strange, but the pain was very real.

I never saw the woman again~ but I know that I would have missed out on touching someone who needed it- both with my words and my hands, if I had stayed hidden in my office- because I had no idea what to say.

You are right friend- our words are powerful. Thank you for this reminder today. I had forgotten this incident until I read your post this afternoon.

And BTW- I am going to FL fully clothed, but I will get as close to naked by the pool as I can stand it- OK? ;)

Enemy of the Republic said...

Seven: I know my friends read my blog, but I have yet to be called the Cruel Virgin. Maybe it's just so evident. I will write a less headachy post tomorrow. Yes, words matter. Words are my life.

Seven said...

OK Cora....have fun in Florida, but if I were there I would be real nekkid on the beach.

Well, you know I was just teasin a little. I love ya, and its real, and perhaps a bit deterministic.

Jenn said...

My daughter and I are reading a book - every night...she picks it. It's called "Words Are Not for Hurting". I know she doesn't really 'get it' yet...but I also know I'm planting a seed. Later - much later probably - I'll teach her about how to use our words after we've hurt someone. I know that can be the say we were wrong - admit we hurt someone. But it's so important.

There's the preschool version of your message. :-)

~Deb said...

Whoa, this was a powerful post, Seven. I truly believe that words are very powerful. I was on a good streak for quite some time, until I lost my temper last night at someone and said some careless phrased words. Now, it’s a new day. New words. New attitude towards things. Our words have impacts on others and we can either tear someone down or bring them up with encouraging, thoughtful and sincere words.

Great post!!!

Steve said...

Hi Seven,
Glad to see you at 3DPoetry yesterday. I was not sure how to respond to your comment, but I am thankful for your visit.. your words matter to me.