Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Just One Word

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind” – Rudyard Kipling

Today is the ninth annual “Spread the Word to End the Word” day, a worldwide event to spread information and awareness regarding special needs and the use of one very destructive word:  retarded. You can find information regarding it’s focus and goals by checking out the spread the word website.

The idea that “one little word can be a powerful thing” is another popular trend over the past decade or so. In fact, there’s a whole online, global community dedicated to choosing one word and “making it visible” in your life throughout a calendar year. I’ve even joined an online class and Facebook group born from this concept (my “one little word” for 2017 is “explore”), with monthly prompts and all sorts of fun art supplies to purchase and projects to complete.

I love that these two sites exist. I have always been fascinated by and, let’s be honest, a bit obsessed with, words. I learned to read very early, and I remember writing my first story when I was in daycare as a first grader. Although I struggle to express myself verbally at times (part of my superpowers of autism), words are my happy place, my safe place, how I see the world and best understand it. I have learned how powerful they can be, a catalyst for change in both positive and negative ways.

I would like you to answer something for me, perhaps out loud, or to a friend, or maybe just to yourself right now as you read this:  How often have you taken time to think about what you say? Are there words that you’ve used so often and in so many different contexts that they no longer mean anything (the word “cool” comes to mind)? Is there a word that you heard maybe once, a long time ago, that still hurts every time you think about it? Is there a word that motivates or encourages you every time you hear it, say it, or think it? What words are forbidden in your house? Why are they forbidden? What power are we giving to our words?

I remember reading a short story/essay in University called “Bitch.” (I apologize if this word is offensive to you; it was the actual title of the piece, and I will explain why if you keep reading). It was written by a young woman in her early twenties who had been called that name by others trying to put her down. One day, her and a few close friends started calling each other that word. It wasn’t to demean or hurt, but to do something radical – by using the word regularly, as a nickname for close friends, the negative power that word had over her was stripped away. Suddenly it was “just another word” and meant nothing.

While I think it’s great to have a designated day to raise awareness for something, I think it would be so much more powerful if we each took on the challenge of allowing “one little word” to show up in our daily lives, to be a strong, positive influence over our decisions and actions. Or if we acknowledged the power one word or many words have been granted in our lives to cause pain, and think of ways to strip that power and replace those words with more positive ones.

I don’t want us to just “spread the word to end the word”; let’s “spread the word to choose a word” that will make a profound difference, right now, today. I’ve committed to it for this year, at least, and I will hopefully be sharing, from time to time, how it shows up in my life. So. What will your word be?

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