On my two-year-old’s first day of preschool, he ran into the classroom without giving me a second glance. I stood there watching, my emotions swinging between relief and sadness.
He was going to be just fine.
His teachers welcomed him with warm smiles and words of encouragement.
But their presence and tenderness spoke volumes their words couldn’t express. He was in a safe place.
When I arrived a couple of hours later he was playing with toys, unaware of my presence.
Who was this child of mine?
When did he grow up and become an independent toddler instead of the one-year-old who latched to my side, crying when I dropped him off in the church nursery?
I don’t remember ever being like my son.
When I think back on my school days, I see a girl who longed for the familiar, who stayed inside her comfort zone and had a few close friends.
Change was the enemy. A roomful of strangers made me anxious and fearful, and throughout middle and high school I was dubbed, “the quiet one.”
So when my husband and I moved cross-country twice within the first five years of our marriage, I was forced to see change in a new light. Perhaps it wasn’t the enemy, but an integral part of life which could make me to grow and flourish or wither and hide.
I’d heard the old adage, “Bloom where you are planted,” and I wanted to. But I wasn’t sure I could.
One morning I sat in a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting indulging in a cream-filled donut and hoping to meet just one person. It was a year after our second cross-country move and community eluded me.
My ball cap covered my bed head but I knew it couldn’t cover the mixture of expectation and skepticism in my eyes.
As I tried to fix my attention on my donut, the MOPS coordinator stopped in front of me.
“You’re new here,” she said with a grin.
And I knew.
I knew she didn’t speak to me out of obligation but a genuine excitement that I was there. We chatted about how many kids we had, their ages, and the similarities between them.
A few days later, I note arrived in my mailbox. I opened it, half expecting to see a pre-printed greeting that was sent to all new MOPS attendees. Skimming the words, I saw I was wrong.
“It’s always nice to meet another “outsider.””
We’d talked about being from another town. A common bond instantly connected us, as we both knew how hard it was to be the “new girl,” the girl with no family, the girl with no friends.
In the few short minutes it took my new friend to write the words, she changed the outlook of my entire day.
And like my son on his first day at preschool, I felt welcome. I felt safe.
Never underestimate the power of your words.
Our words have the power to breathe life or stifle it.
With a simple “hello,” a smile, a conversation spent listening instead of simply waiting to speak, we breathe life into the bones of others. Others who are hurting, wanting, and needing our presence and affirmation.
All it takes is a simple decision. But that decision can make the difference between life and death.
With our words, we can speak hope.
Author: Abby McDonald