“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is one of the biggest lies we tell ourselves, starting in grade school. In fact, I would argue that words are the most powerful weapon we have access to, and we carry it with us at all times.
Words can be the fixer of all things and can also be the reason someone can’t seem to make it through life. Our words matter, they have meaning, they are impactful, and it is our responsibility to use them wisely.
I recently heard a speech given by Mohammed Qahtani where he stated, “Words have power. Words are power. Words could be your power. You can change a life, inspire a nation, make this world a beautiful place. Isn’t that what we all wanted? Your mouth can spit venom, or it can mend a broken soul.”
I rewatched that speech numerous times, reflecting on moments in my life where words truly changed my trajectory…Times when words broke me down, but also the times when words impacted me so greatly that they are a major reason for my happiness.
There is one memory that I immediately thought of when listening to Mohammed’s speech that changed my perspective on words, kindness, and how the two together can literally change someone’s life.
Several years ago, I would guess about 2018, I met with someone interested in the anti-human trafficking movement who requested a meeting with me. Let’s call her, Jane Doe (I know, I lose points in creativity here, but just stick with me!). When Jane and I met, I immediately recognized her from about 20 years earlier in middle school. When we introduced ourselves and sat down, I said to her, “hey, aren’t you Jane Doe?!” She looked at me, shocked and a little embarrassed/uncomfortable and responded with, “yeah, but how do you know me and know my last name? I haven’t used that last name in a very long time.” I explained to her that I knew her from middle school prior to her moving. She told me she was surprised I remembered her, and she went on to explain she felt unlikeable and that no one really saw her. She then talked about a basketball game she saw me at after she had moved…”Hey, are you the Melissa who looked at me, smiled and waved, and said Hi Jane at that basketball game?”…
After we reminisced on that moment from 20 years prior, we went on to talk about why she moved away and changed her last name, and some of the trauma in her life at that time.
The point of this short story is not to give myself a pat-on-the-back or any kudos. It’s to show the power of words, literally one word…hi. HI. Just simply acknowledging someone with one word made them feel seen, likeable, and a moment worth remembering. We talked about how that moment impacted her, which shocked me, because it did not feel like I did much.
She remembered that moment. We both remembered that moment. It was 20 years ago, and she remembered me, a middle schooler, just smiling and using the word hi. During that time in her life, she felt invisible, unimportant, and abused. She did not have friends or a healthy support system, and simply having someone display kindness towards her with a simple “hi” made such an impact on her life that 20 years later she still randomly remembered some girl named Melissa showing her kindness at a basketball game.
Our meeting, which was supposed to be about anti-trafficking work, impacted the both of us in ways we did not expect, and we were purposefully brought together again. It will always stick with me. We do not always get to know what impact our words have on people and I was grateful for the opportunity to see her again.
Long story short, do not underestimate the power of words. Not only do they convey meaning and purpose, but they are how we express ourselves to others and how we find connection. Each one of us can reflect on many times in which words hurt us, changed our lives, or made us the happiest we could have ever been. It’s important to remember those experiences and understand that it is each of our responsibilities to choose words wisely. Simply saying to someone you love them, are proud of them, care about them, believe in them, or see their potential can change their lives. And apparently, so can simply just smiling and saying hi.
Don’t ever diminish the power of words. Words move hearts, and hearts move limbs. ~