I came rushing from the front desk, hands on wide hips above the espanding elastic band of my basketball shorts to say, "Who just said that?"
"No one swore, Miss."
"Yea, no one said a swear."
"Oh no, someone said something. Who told someone to shut up?
"Uhh, he said something to me that wasn't nice, so I just said shut up because I was annoyed."
I just said.
If only the babies knew just how little words stick like gum on a stack of hay.
Somewhere in between the text talk and the disregard for proper grammar, we have forgotten how words, more than sticks and stones that break your bones, can leave your sprit crippled long after the bruises color of grapes have disappeared. If just words can uplift a nation (Thanks, Obama), why do we forget their power to have us buried in self-doubt for a lifetime?
We have a chart in our program that allows youth to monitor their actions for the day. When they make good choices, labels like "Role Model" and "Super Leader" are bestowed upon them. Put a teammate down or neglect to follow instructions and they're reminded to "Make Better Choices" or "Take 5".
My work is not about teaching young people to be better at math or writing, but to help them discover that small little piece of them that whispers the words, "You can do it," even as obstacles are hurled in their direction.
To tell someone to shut up is to silence their soul. To take the time to listen to someone is to kiss their heart. The next time you think to say, shut up, take the time to say, "I hear you, but I don't like what you're saying."
How many of us are walking around hurt because we felt like the people who are supposed to love us the most just don't care enough to listen?