Sticks and Stones, by Michael Thornton

thorntonphotoSticks and stones may break my bones, but words… We all know this little saying that we cried out to keep the playground bully at bay… but is it true? Will words never hurt us? Of course not! Words can cut through us and make us feel like we are a nobody.  They slice us like a razor thin sword held up by a mighty enemy. I should know how painful words feel.  You see when I was a baby, I had Spinal meningitis and spent many months in Arkansas Children’s Hospital recovering from its effects on my life.  So I did not have a great start to my childhood, but the problems did not go away after I started school. Some of my classmates figured out I was different than they were and so they started calling me the R word!

The R word!  Oh how painful that word was to me.  I knew I was different… but was I the R word?  No, I was not.  I did have a slight speech problem (and still do at times, but I can live with it) and maybe I did not learn as quickly as they did, but I never was the R word.  In fact, no person is ever the R word in my eyes.  They may not be like some people, but never are they the R word.   R word! I cannot remember the first time I heard that word said to me, yet I do remember the pain I felt every time I heard it. Honestly it felt like a ton of bricks – no worse, more like manure being dumped on me. It was as if they were saying, “You’re not worthy to be on the same playground with us!” Gee, how small that word made me feel.   “Mom, why do they pick on me?” That question I asked numerous times when I was growing up.  In fact, I still question why they did that.  Did it really matter?  Did they achieve their goal of making me feel like a worthless soul? No, of course not!  If anything they did achieve was to give me a sense of knowing that I was different from some kids, but that was what made me unique.

R Word!  Every time I use that phrase here it brings out the pain I felt back then.  Oh, how that stung me deep down inside.  In fact, the more I reflect on it, the angrier I became. In reality, I wish I could go back in time and tell those little punks off!  Better yet, I want to show them how it really felt to be called that ward by using a few words of my own.  However, would that really make a difference?   For some people the R word may not be the word that haunts them like a hungry pit bull.  Their word may be loser, moron, nobody, or worse yet, you make me sick! It really does not matter what bullies say or do to put you down, all words hurt when used in a harmful way.  Besides, being harmful, words may also be positive in a person’s life. I remember a number of people telling me that I can do anything I set my heart to do, and to not let anyone tell me otherwise. You are not what others tell you who you are; you are who you make yourself out to be.  It was my option to decide if I was going to let two or three punks tell me that I was not a worthy person, or was I going to let my life be determined by who I chose to become? Words truly do make a difference in a person’s life.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can be as beautiful as a red rose in a vase.  I always look for the good in everyone and say nice things about them. Words can either lift people up, or bring people down so why not be a lifter today and say something positive about everyone you meet.  Even your worst enemy needs to hear a positive word today so why not be nice to them the next time you meet.  It just might be the difference maker in their life.

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