I was on vacation in Provincetown, Massachusetts, many years ago, by myself, feeling depleted and disconnected when I walked into town and into one of the candy stores to buy a favorite comfort food: fudge. The man who served me seemed more like the owner than an employee. He was older, gray-haired, with an air of being in charge. He rang up my purchase. It came to about $2.84 (I did say this was a long time ago!). I gave him two dollars and rooted around for the change. It wasn't small change, either, adding up to the greater part of another dollar. "Don't worry about it," he said, passing me the bag. "Enjoy."
Now I'm sure I haven't blown your mind with this tiny, insignificant story. Maybe you barely even made it through that paragraph and are still waiting for something exciting to happen. With our wonderful addiction to drama, tiny stories don't often arouse big responses. But I had a big response that day. Since I was feeling so down, and since feeling down often makes us feel isolated, separated, uncared for or unloved, this man's small act of kindness and generosity, his few words of spaciousness and grace, well, they made all the difference in the world. He gave me much more than an eight four cent gift. I walked out of the store lighter, like a chosen, lucky person.
I know many people who have experienced similar tiny moments when the right words were spoken at just the right time. Has this happened to you? Sometimes, a few words change the course of a life or even many lives. Our words have such power and promise. And writers deal in words. Most writers hope very much that their words will effect the readers, touch them, change them, uplift them, inform them, connect them. It was E.M. Forester who said: "Only connect."
In one of the early of my mother, Nancy Thayer's, 23 novels, she wrote the line, "It's never to late, in fiction or life, to revise." This sentence has leaped so far off the page that she once opened a catalog and found it had been used on a plaque! It's in books and on calendars. There is something strong and true and resonant about the statement and that is why it's taken on a life of its own.
I love how language and ideas can become a force in the world--independent of the author. A friend told me this: "There was a part of I'll Take Where She Has that meant so much to me I folded over the corner." Could there be sweeter words to a writer's ears? I have always wanted to write words in a book worthy of the corner fold. What about having some of your sentences underlined? Used in casual conversation? Spoken aloud? Kept in someone's mind as a talisman that strengthens them?
I had the opportunity to speak aloud some of my words to a large audience in support of an amazing local organization MotherWoman. I worked with another spoken word artists, Alysia Cosby, and we performed my Motherhood Is Meaningful Manifesto live for 450 people. Many people told me that our words inspired them. One of the mothers present said to me many days later, "Your words did so much for me that I left that day thinking YAY! That was exactly what I needed to hear. I felt changed when I left."
I am always giving people words. Sometimes, it's all I have! One way I do this is to share books that have made a difference in my life. If I have a friend going through a trial, I try to put my hands on just the right book and pass it along or recommend it. The ideas I've discovered in reading have healed me many times over. And so have the few simple words from friends and strangers, many of whom will never know the effect of their right words at the right time.
Isn't it incredible to think we all have that power--to use for the good? Here are some of my favorite words: "Thank you." "I love you." "I'm so glad to see you." "You are beautiful." "You are a good mother." "You are doing a good job." "You can do it!" "I'm here if you need me."
When have the words of someone else made all the difference in your life--words you've either heard or read? And what tiny event, almost insignificant, has words spoken in it that made a difference you've never forgotten?
Samantha Wilde is the author of the recently released I'll Take What She Has and This Little Mommy Stayed Home. She is an ordained minister, a yoga teacher, and the full-time, at-home mother of three small children who often say just the thing she needs to hear. She really appreciates it when people like her on Facebook (and is happy to return the favor), follow her on twitter, check out her mothering blog, purchase vast quantities of her novel, or make a movie out of one of her novels that becomes a blockbuster. "Here's a million, honey!" Those are some right words at the right time!