Last weekend I read a book about the power of words. You’d think it was a non-fiction book from that description but no, it was fiction. A Dystopian/Sci-Fi Young Adult book by Patricia Forde called The List, which follows the story of a remnant of people left after global warming wipes out most of the world. Why did this happen? Because people didn’t listen. Warnings went unheeded because words were thrown around rather than used wisely. Words became superfluous, abused.
To save those who are left and ensure such a catastrophe doesn’t happen again, the leader of the remnants cuts down the people’s words to a list of five hundred. If there aren’t as many words to use, people will get to the point faster and be forced to live in the present. (It was a lot more detailed than that but hopefully you get the gist without me giving away the whole story!)
I’d never considered words being what would make or break the world. The whole concept is mind-boggling and yet, I found myself thinking about it long after I’d finished the book. The power of words. The fact that a group of people could be controlled not by taking away their weapons but by taking away their words.
As a writer, I’m incredibly thankful for words. It’s kind of hard to write a book without them. A single word can change a whole story. A particular description, a well-turned phrase (or a terrible one), a sentence that sticks in a reader’s mind and brings them to a place they never dared to go themselves. Word choice is the difference between a good book and an amazing one.
But in real life, words are even more powerful.
And I don’t just mean quote-worthy speeches by powerful people or Bible verses memorized and brought to mind at just the right time.
A simple hello has the power to change a life. Imagine being someone who feels invisible, like everyone passes by you, chatting with friends and fitting in and being somebody. And then one of them turns around and says hello. Someone notices you. Someone reminds you that you’re not invisible. You’re someone.
Sounds crazy but someone did this for me once. Two someones actually.
It was at church when I was a young teen (tween? Late primary, early high school). I was part of a really great youth group with a bunch of other teens my age. We used to meet up every Friday night for fun and/or Bible studies and Sunday nights, during church, sit together for the service. Well, they would. I’d sit with my mum. Kind of. She was involved in the music team for the worship part of the service so I’d actually sit alone for half the time.
Could I have sat with the other teens my age? Sure. But I never did. Mainly because I never quite felt like I belonged with them. I wasn’t quite as cool as them, didn’t quite have the right clothes or outgoing personality, spent more time reading than chatting about boys, etc. You get the idea. The usual teen stuff. For whatever reason, I felt on the outer. There, but not there.
But, despite this, there were a couple of girls (the coolest ones there, in my mind J) who’d walk all the way down the front to where I sat every week by myself and invite me to sit with them. I can’t remember ever saying yes but they still kept inviting me. And it meant so much to me. To know that I meant something. That, despite their coolness and my un-coolness, they noticed me and cared enough to ask if I wanted to join them and be part of their group. Thinking about it now, it seems so shallow and silly and honestly, it probably meant nothing to them to ask but to me, an insecure young teen girl, it meant everything.
Simple words. “Want to sit with us?” Life-changing moments.
Words have power.
Not just big words that change the world but the little ones too, the ones that change individual’s worlds.
“You are enough.”
“I love you.”
“Come and sit with me?”
They’re so simple. And yet…wow.
Have you ever considered the impact simple words can have? They’re so easy to throw about and yet have such power.
I loved reading The List. It was a great story. But I love even more the way it reminded me how thankful I am for words and the power they have. Something I won’t be taking for granted any time soon.
So, who can you encourage today? You don’t have to have any big words or anything truly profound to say. You’d be amazed how much a simple, ‘I appreciate you,’ can mean to someone. Go for it!