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Sweet Words

We all know the power of words. Whether hurtful words that cut deep or encouraging words that acted as a salve for those wounds. We have the power to do so much with our words.

Proverbs 16:24 says:

“Gracious words are a honeycomb,

sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

It makes me think of this anonymous saying: "Taste your words before you spit them out." If your words are bitter or sour, maybe just swallow them. If they taste sweet, proceed.

A quick note on truth. It doesn't matter if our words sound sweet if they aren't true. Let's not get caught up in the mania that suggests it's impossible to discover the truth anymore. Truth is truth. We can have different feelings or interpretations on truth but we can't have different truths. That's just not how truth works.

Now, back to my main point. Last Wednesday as I watched the inauguration, I stopped dead in my tracks as Amanda Gorman, the first ever youth poet laureate, recited her exquisite poem “The Hill We Climb”. If words are measured by their sweetness, I think poetry is crème brûlée. We can be intimidated by the language which is like the crunchy outer layer. But if we're able to break through the caramelized sugar, what's underneath is rich and smooth and really, really sweet.

Amanda Gorman's words were definitely crème brûlée. Don’t allow your politics to keep you from watching this clip. If you saw it, watch it again. If you avoided the inauguration, please listen to this incredible, young person teach us a thing or two about hope.

When I taught high school English, I always looked forward to the poetry unit at the end of the year -not just because it was the end of the year. At the beginning of each class, I read a poem without revealing the title or author. I didn’t want students to got hung up on those things. I just wanted them to hear the words. Then, I used a series of questions to help them reflect on the poems. Their responses were fascinating because there was no rhyme or reason for which poems resonated with which students. But one thing was clear -poetry didn’t just make them think. It made them feel.

In my first book Silvery Moon, the main character is moved by a poem recited by an older student in school. In fact, that recitation is what inspires Isabel to be a poet herself. It’s the moment when she realizes that poetry may be the vehicle for her to finally find her voice.

Like my Isabel, Amanda Gorman used poetry to find her voice as a young girl. Fun fact: she also uses poetry recitation for speech therapy. According to an interview with Anderson Cooper, Amanda Gorman (like Cooper and President Biden) struggles with a speech impediment. There are sounds that are very difficult for her, yet her performance felt flawless. (It must be working). In fact, she often raps along with Leslie Odom Jr. to the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” from Hamilton. She says the song helps her practice the “R” sound which is struggle for her. That connection made me love her even more.

Speech impediment or not, Gorman’s words are in inspiration. They offer hope in a time when it’s needed most. Gorman hopes to “reclaim poetry to purify the power of words”. She also said this of hope:

“Hope isn’t something that we ask of others,

it’s something that we demand from ourselves.”

Our words may not be as pretty as hers, but they are powerful. We too can offer hope with our words. Sometimes the simplest phrases are what’s needed.

Things like:

I’m sorry.

I’m here.

Let’s figure it out together.

I believe things will get better.

I care about you.

You are loved.

No matter how poetic we are, let’s use our words to offer hope. Allow them to be therapy for those who need them the most. Let’s heal some bones with our honeycomb words. And if we want to get really fancy, let's make some crème brûlée. Either with our words or in our kitchens because...power of suggestion. Also, I've made it before and it's not that difficult.




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