It's Only Words....Or is it?
"But words are things, and a small drop of ink, falling like dew upon a thought, produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think." - George Gordon Byron
This past week was an eventful one. I turned 62- years old on Thursday, Nov. 11 and the next morning, on the twelfth, my wife and I became grandparents for the second time. What a blessing!
It all began on Thursday morning. In a devious, contrived scheme to steal the spotlight away from me on my big day; my daughter, Kelly, was admitted to South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, suffering from preeclampsia, a complication of pregnancy.
Kelly's husband, Tom, had been admitted to Brockton hospital a few days earlier with severe bronchitis; a blatantly, selfish act to, again, steal my stage.
OK! That's enough! I admit it. I've struggled all week to come up with an idea for this column. Should it be light – humorous, like my first two contributions? Perhaps I should stay with the tenor of last weeks column; heady –deep - inspirational.
Could I really stoop so low as to use my son-in-law's illness and my daughter's difficulties with her pregnancy just to get a few chuckles at their expense? Of course I could! After all – it is all about me isn't it?
Those of you who don't yet know me or understand my rather bizarre sense of humor are probably appalled at this point. "Is this guy serious?" you're asking in your best 'holier-than-thou' tone. "What's wrong with this man?"
My answers to your questions are as follows:
- "Many things; far too numerous to mention here."
Kelly and Tom are both doing extremely well and their new arrival; Ethan Robert Syrek, is healthy and progressing nicely despite being delivered by C-section six weeks ahead of schedule. The little guy only weighed in at 3 pounds, 7 ounces and was 16 inches long. He'll need to spend a few weeks in the neonatal unit, but he's doing great.
I fancy myself a word-smith of sorts. Words and language-usage are my tools. Through my words, I'm able to lead you, the reader, down one path, as I did at the onset of this offering; and then, without warning, lead you in a totally different direction, shocking and perhaps even disgusting you. I'm able to spin you on a carousel of carefully crafted words and phrases until you lose all sense of direction and then guide you, gently and methodically, back on the path where we began. That's exactly what I've done here and you never saw it coming.
Words are powerful; often-times much more powerful than actions. The old adage, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me," is patently false. Words may be used for good – or for evil. They can build-up - or destroy. We must choose our words carefully; lest we become purveyors of the latter.
Kind words build bridges and create an atmosphere where peace, love and understanding prevail. Our words - the way we speak to one another - create relationship. Relationship, in turn, creates community. Towns such as Easton were birthed through relationship; a few like-minded individuals sitting down together and speaking – planning – creating community; and it all started with the quality and choice of their words.
Everything begins with the spoken or written word. Chances are you've never looked at it that way before.
I grew up, or at least made a half-hearted attempt to do so, in Mansfield during the heyday of the 1950s and the turbulence and change of the mid-60s. Mansfield was a small town of approximately 8,000 when I was in high school. I knew nearly everyone in town and they knew me – knew my family. In those days we knew our neighbors. We had community. We weren't afraid to speak to strangers or let our kids ride their bikes down the street. But things are different now.
Is the world a more dangerous place than it was back then; or is our perception skewed by the 24/7- barrage of bad news from the talking heads – the access to too much information - sometimes misinformation and propaganda? Are their words creating a community of fear and angst?
In a 1956 speech, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev had threatened to bury us. The Cold War was in full swing, but the threatening rhetoric; the words of the Soviet thugs couldn't rattle us. We had one another - we had community - community impervious to his words of hate.
Words build relationships. Relationships build community. Community is love – and love (light) will triumph over evil (darkness) every time.
My family and I have lived in Easton for nearly 14 years now. Easton was home to my former high school football coach's nemesis, the late great Val Muscato; Oliver Ames High School stadium's namesake. I'd heard his name bandied about throughout my school days. He was a legend; always depicted as the enemy – the evil one.
Many years later, in 1990, my son, Chris, took the field at Memorial Park in Mansfield, to battle the same rival I had faced many times – Oliver Ames High School – the Tigers in their intimidating black and orange. But this time, Val Muscato stood stoically on the sidelines as a spectator.
It was a great game. Mansfield, a huge underdog that day, rallied late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. They had done it! They had defeated the dreaded Tigers.
I was ecstatic; an excitement difficult to understand unless you had grown up facing OA's powerhouse teams of the 60's. Val's teams rarely went down to defeat – and it was always a gruesome battle.
I walked up to Val. I was a little cocky; a little prideful. "How'd ya like that one, Mr. Muscato?" I posed rather boastfully as I reached out and shook his hand.
"Well," he responded thoughtfully, "I wasn't crazy about the result, but it was a great game to watch. Those kids gave it all today. Congratulations."
I was stunned. This was the dreaded Val Muscato; the man whose name had struck fear in the hearts of his opponents for decades? He was nothing like my coach had depicted him. He was a gentleman – a fierce competitor – but a truly nice man.
My high school coach's words had painted a false picture in my mind that I had carried with me for three decades, but with a few, thoughtful words Val Muscato was able to change that misconception.
Are you getting this?
If a few, well thought out words can change one man – one relationship, then it follows that this process repeated over and over again can change many relationships – can change a community - and that process repeated in community after community, can change the world.
Words are powerful. Choose them wisely.
And now I leave you back on the road where this journey began.
Pretty cool, huh?