Sometimes, moments in life sneak up on you. Words are said that challenge and inspire you. Thoughts that you have had for years, and fears you have long ago learned to embrace are rattled at their very core.
Most of the time, these moments are accompanied with an event of decent magnitude, or are created by the words of a friend or confidant. Occasionally, however, they are unforeseen and most unexpected…and that makes them all the more special.
Several weeks ago, some friends and I decided to take advantage of a beautiful spring Tennessee evening by visiting a local park. A picnic was prepared, company was enjoyed, and in the very essence of warm weather a frisbee was, of course, brought along.
We had just begun tossing the frisbee when a group of several children saw us and asked if they could join. With a twinge of reluctant unspoken annoyance from all, we relented and they joined our group. We all know how this goes, of course. The throws are mediocre at best, the catches are non-existent, and the game essentially looks like a blind man attempting to herd cats. That night, though, it didn’t seem to matter. Perhaps it was the pollen count, but something in the air made me feel alive and excited that these children wanted to be there with us. They thought we were cool….and we all want to be cool.
We ran, we laughed, I gave one of them some pointers on his frisbee toss (which looked distinctly better afterward I might add), and a good time was had by all. Most of my time was spent with the two smaller girls, who looked to be about 7 years old. Their mothers watched while we played, constantly reassuring us that if they were bothering us we could let them know. We insisted that they were fine, however, and the game went on for quite some time.
After a while, the mothers called to the children and told them it was time to leave. Without hesitation, the youngest girl came bounding up to me and wrapped her tiny arms around my legs. With huge hazel eyes she looked and yelled “Thank you!!!!” Fearing that her mother would mistake me for a pedophile, I laughed and patted her head and told her she was welcome. As I said this, her mother walked over and placed one hand on my arm.
At this point I was terrified, thinking that this was some sort of To Catch a Predator spinoff. What happened next, however, couldn’t have been more unexpected. She looked me straight in the eye and said “You are going to be an amazing husband and father someday.”
Almost immediately, tears came to my eyes and I muttered a feeble “thanks” while choking back emotion. It was a simple statement, probably said out of relief from a mother who had been corralling children all day, but it spoke to my very core.
You see, this woman never could have known that everything in me desires to be a father, to have a family, to provide for someone. She couldn’t have known that for years I have struggled with the fear that I wasn’t enough. The only thing that she knew was I took a few moments out of my day to play frisbee with her kid. What she said, though, spoke life over me. It battled my fear head on, and stepped into the arena with my doubt and shame and fought valiantly. This unnamed woman in the park will never be forgotten by me, and she has no idea.
There are so many times throughout my life that I have innately felt that I should say something, or that I should do something, but haven’t done so because it seemed foolish or strange. What I have forgotten, however, is that we so many times forget the power we have to speak life over others…whether we think we have the right to or not.
The old adage, the one about sticks and stones? Yeah, well….that was a lie. Words forever shape us. Perhaps, I daresay, they shape us even more so than actions. So, the next time you feel that nudge to say what is on your mind, my challenge to you would be to do it. Do it swiftly, before fear and doubt have time to catch up with your tongue. Whether it be a complete stranger or your best friend, those words may be far more powerful (and needed) than you could possibly think.