The Gift of Words

Column by Michael Norton

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By Michael Norton
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After all, it is the season of gift giving, right? Many of us have already finished our shopping and, in most cases, our children have even completed their wish lists.

When giving gifts, some of us choose to include a card, and sometimes we just send out cards to our closest friends and family at this time of year. Then again, there are those who will literally send out hundreds of greeting cards each year, and it is truly incredible to watch as their mailing list seems to grow and grow. People love getting cards.

My grandmother used to say the card was more important than the gift. She believed this because my grandfather used to write loving messages inside of each card in addition to whatever came printed on the inside. His words were his gift, and he used his words to express his deep love and affection for my grandmother. 

Words are so very powerful. The spoken word and the written word can move hearts and minds or they can start battles, sustain wars and destroy relationships. Words can be used as the building blocks of encouragement or the can be deployed as weapons to tear people down. There is a proverb that reads, "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and soothing to the bones."

If we imagined that everyone we meet was either a demolition site waiting to be crushed by our words and the tone of our voice, or a construction site waiting to be renewed or built up by our kind, loving and hopeful words, we would be in a much better position to make the right decision around what we might say, and how we might say it. Or we may just choose to say nothing at all. Mark Twain said it this way, "If you have nothing to say, say nothing."

But during this holiday season I hope you will choose to give the gift of a word or words. You know how it goes, material gifts will get worn, used, lost, broken, or stuffed in a closet and forgotten about until your next garage sale. But words, even just one word, can stay in person's heart forever. And with many people feeling stressed or anxious, the right word at the right time can bring cheer to those who need it most.

Maybe this holiday season you can try your hand at poetry or a letter. Maybe instead of settling for the words that are already written on the inside of the card, you can find a way to add your most heartfelt thoughts and wishes for that person. This is a card that someone may just hold on to for a long time, while cherishing the words even longer. Create a quick encouraging or loving phrase and hang it somewhere in your home, and if celebrating Christmas, maybe even hang it on the tree for that special someone to see Christmas morning.

My grandfather wrote down his feelings and shared his writings with my grandmother during the depression era, a time when they didn't have a whole lot of money. His gift was his love, his gifts were his words, and his gifts were amazing to the one person they were intended for, my grandmother.

Who will be the recipient of your gift of words this year? It doesn't have to be just one person either, build up as many people as possible. Who will think that they have received the greatest gift ever this year when you take the time to write down a message, or call them, or share it with them in person?

I would love to hear all about how you plan on giving the gift of words this holiday season at gotonorton@gmail.com and I am wishing you all a better than good holiday season.