When I worked as a teacher’s aide, it was one of my stock phrases. “Use your words,” I would admonish my tiny charges when someone hit someone else or had a tantrum. “We don’t hit,” I would further clarify. “That isn’t nice and it doesn’t solve your problem, does it? If you are mad at Susie, tell her. Let her know how you feel and what she can do to help you feel better.”
It was a lofty goal – to expect 5-year-olds to put their turbulent emotions into words; some might say it was an impossible expectation. But I wasn’t expecting miracles, just a start. I wanted to get my tiny charges thinking – just thinking – about an alternate way to handle their anger. I knew I had made an impact the day I heard one of the children tell a classmate to “use your words!”
It gives me hope, to think of that day and those children. They taught me as much as I taught them. Perhaps more. No, definitely more, for we adults have forgotten so much of what we learned in kindergarten.
The saddest loss is that we no longer seem to feel a need to use our words. I blame that on social media, where responses are reduced to emojis that take a mere split-second of our time and even less thought. Occasionally, we will type a reply, but even that is abbreviated. “Lol”, we comment, or “smh”. We seem to have lost complete words, and sentences are a rarity.
This loss of words is most evident when people do attempt to use them; sentences are often awkwardly phrased, and the words misspelled. As with any talent that we haven’t used in a very long time, we are rusty and out of practice, and it shows. Still, it’s a start and it gives me hope. Any response is better than just the click of a mouse on a ready-made emoji-feeling.
Despite what most of my friends think, I am Not criticizing and proof-reading your comments. I am so grateful for whole words and complete thoughts that I treasure each sentence. To quote another old phrase, “neatness and spelling don’t count.” I am hungry for communication, something – anything! – that goes beyond a mere “like”.
I challenge you to “use your words” and leave a comment. If my words have touched you in some way, please use your words to say so. It will truly make my day. I’m not expecting miracles. After all, it’s social media and old habits die hard. I’m going to try to not be discouraged by the usual lack of response. Because, if I have made you think – just think — about talking to one another, then my efforts are not in vain.
“Words feed the hungry soul.” ~ D.Wylie