After the Christmas break, my son began attending a new elementary school. The decision to move was not made lightly but transitions can be challenging. As we moved through the first few weeks, I prayed a lot and there were tears all around. And yet the staff of this school have been outstanding: supportive, compassionate, firm when necessary – but always loving. As my son and I found our way, I never once doubted that the teachers and staff had his best interest at heart. Within two weeks, we knew the head of security, the nurse, the counselor, the front office staff, the bus driver and the teachers: A village of support and care.
Just yesterday, I picked my son up early from school for an appointment. It was great to see Mr. B and Miss G. They shared my excitement at my son’s progress in adjusting to a new environment and routine. Just that morning he’d told me “I don’t go to school because I have to. I go because I want to.” I shared that with Mr. B, and he was filled with a palpable joy. He said “I love your words! I don’t know what it is, but I always love your words.”
I was surprised and grateful, considering that at the beginning of term, I was often frustrated by the time we got to school. Transitions are challenging and can bring up all sorts of fears and anxiety. Yet it is a relief to imagine that I had shared hopeful words even on those days. Not because I am some spiritual giant. But because I move in a community of the faithful. And the willingness of Mr. B and others to meet us where we are was life-giving to me – and in turn must have evoked a life-giving response from my tired, frazzled self.
Words always have an impact. They are informed by the company we keep and the community in which we move. My congregants and our outreach volunteers will attest that I am fond of saying “All ministry is mutual.” In these challenging times, we are all pandemic weary. This weariness, combined with an already highly divisive political and social environment, has resulted in a perfect storm. We needn’t look far to find folks who will welcome another with whom to commiserate. We needn’t look far to find platforms for venting frustration and anger, for tearing down rather than building up.
Still, if we are intentional about it, we need not look far to find dialogue that is uplifting, that generates a sense of welcome and care. That is life-giving.
Where and with whom we choose to spend our time and energy is important. There is a ripple effect, and it is mutual. Words do matter – and they are informed by our choices.