My husband mentioned something the other day that made me smile. In fact, it has made me smile many times since it happened.
We were on our way back to the Yukon with our two daughters - driving back, in a very small Toyota Corolla, after spending a year at college in Saskatchewan. I learned what the word claustrophobic meant on that trip. And I learned something else.
We'd been admiring the scenery all the way - the soaring scenery of mountains that takes your breath away after living on the prairie for a year. When we reached our destination, Dawson City, my daughter, Katie, then six, paused as we ferried across the Yukon River, then pointed at the sheer cliffs rising from the water. "Look, Dad," she said, "we're coming close to the incredibles!"
I guess we'd used that word a time or two.
I learned then that kids will imitate us, no matter what words we use. They don't know any better. They are learning about how to function in the world, and their only resource is the people around them. Since we are, in effect, stuck in a small vehicle known as a family, it is inevitable that our kids will pick up and use whatever words we allow a presence within that capsule. They not only pick them up, they learn how to use them.
How crucial it is, then, to speak words of peace, love, contentment, joy - words that heal instead of words that destroy. How else will our children learn about such crucial words if we do not speak them?
Now that I and my children are much older, I carry a certain amount of guilt about the many words I have not spoken. The other child in that car on its way to the Yukon, Laura, once said that she only learned about me when strangers came to our house and we started telling stories. "Why don't you tell us those stories?" she asked. Why indeed.
What fear keeps us from sharing the stories of our hearts with those closest to us? Why do we keep silent, keep the crucial words hidden inside? I suppose we too have learned, as we've journeyed through the small capsule of our lives, that it is safer to keep things hidden. Safer in the silence. But we all lose in that silence.
So at the beginning of this New Year, I call a challenge into this shared capsule - speak. Let the words of life and love flow out, into the air, onto the pages, onto the monitor screens and into cyber-space.
Let us all speak!