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JOY SYLVESTER-JOHNSON: I’d Like to Put in a Good Word

Joy Sylvester Johnson

When my children were small my husband and I tried to teach them the social pleasantries of saying “thank you” as a response to compliments or gifts.

When they would sometimes, due to the excitement of a surprise, forget to say “thank you” we would simply say “kind words” as a reminder which would have the desired effect of reminding them to express their gratitude.

Words have power. This power can be used for evil or for good.

Over the past few years we have had the national shared experience of being peppered with toxic words that shame, demean and destroy. What has saddened me the most is that some of the worst offenders have been public Christians.

Many of my acquaintances have turned off their televisions and radios, stopped reading the paper and abandoned social media to escape this seemingly endless barrage of words that literally “hurt.”

Many of us have gone “mute” rather than discuss certain topics with friends so as not to stir up the “verbal venom” that seems to proliferate our attempts at conversation.

Today I would like to propose we, all of us who are weary of the public use of toxic words, tip the balance in favor of life giving words.

Words have power.

Let’s use the power of words to heal a weary world.

Let’s use words to create beauty, goodness, and laughter.

I suspect if each of us released these powerful words for “good” we could actually change the emotionally charged public discourse from one which causes no little suffering to one that actually encourages healing and dialogue that produces actual positive changes.

I have a friend who frequently does public poetry readings of what he calls his “love poetry.”

He reads aloud “life giving” words that are “from the heart.” His poetry is simple and unpretentious. In a literary sense it may be lacking, but in another way, perhaps a more important way, it is exquisite because it is his way of giving himself and the listening community a verbal hug.

I have another friend who always manages to say something kind. In fact, I have never heard him utter a single unkind word about anyone.

Imagine what could happen if each of us decided today is the day we will unleash a bushel of kind words into the atmosphere?

I believe it could produce the prelude to a national healing we so desperately need.

Words have the power to hurt or heal. We are responsible for our words.

Decide today to start giving “kind words” as gifts to friends, and perhaps even more importantly, to those who are not (yet) friends. People can disagree, but they can do so without being disrespectful to the one with whom they disagree. I am not talking simply about civility, but enabling the basic human dignity of each one be a variable that guides the tone and sincerity of all participants.

I got into the habit when my husband was facing a series of days where much suffering was expected, of saying out loud to myself, “This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.”
Saying and hearing these simple phrases helped me to begin each day with intentional joyfulness even in the midst of suffering and unknowing.

Lately, I have been singing those familiar words:

Day by day
Day by day
Oh Dear Lord
Three things I pray
To see Thee more clearly
Love Thee more dearly
Follow Thee more nearly
Day by day by day by day by day…

And finally, when I have done all I know to remedy discord, I return to the words of Quaker William Penn: “Let us see what Love will do.”

Find your own words of healing and kindness and today let them loose in the world which is parched to hear them.

Words have power.
Use them wisely.
Let the healing begin!

Joy Sylvester-Johnson

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