Words Matter #5

Oct 28th 2010

Words that Bless.

Sister Mrosla remembers her first teaching experience. the-power-of-wordsThere were 34 third graders in her class in Morris, Minnesota and all of those filled with youthful bounce. Sister Mrosla vividly recalls one young man named Mark who talked incessantly. He was handsome and in every way except the constant chattering, he was very well behaved. Finally in total frustration one afternoon, Sister Mrosla issued an ultimatum, she instantly wished she had left unsaid, “If you open your mouth one more time, Mark, I’m going to tape it closed.”

As you can imagine, it wasn’t two minutes later before another student shouted out, “Mark is talking; Mark is talking.”

Since the punishment had been stated in front of the class, Sister Mrosla was stuck. She walked to Mark, the room had a deep hush, she tore off two pieces of masking tape and made a big x over his mouth. Then she returned to her desk. As she glanced at Mark to see how he was doing, he winked at her and soon she was chuckling and then laughing out loud. Pretty soon the entire class cheered as she walked back to Mark’s desk and removed the tape. His first words after the tape came off were: “Thank you for correcting me, sister.”

Several years passed and Mark found himself in Sister Mrosla’s class again, now in junior high, and she had gone on to teaching math. At one point she could sense that it was the time of the year when students were getting on each other’s nerves. The┬ámath principles were difficult and friction seemed to permeate the room.

“Take out a sheet of paper,” she told the class at the end of that trying week, “and write down the names of each student in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name. I now want you to think of the nicest thing you can say about each of your classmates and write that down beneath their name.”

Sister Mrosla had the class take the rest of the period to finish the assignment, and that weekend she listed each child’s name on a separate sheet of paper and then compiled everything positive that everyone else had said about that individual. On┬áMonday she gave each child his or her list. While everyone seemed pleased, no one ever mentioned those papers in class again.

Years passed and one-day Sister Mrosla was returning from a vacation. Her parents met her at the airport. As they were driving home, her father cleared his throat and said, “Mark Eklund’s family called last night. You know, he was the one in your class that you said was so gregarious?” “Really, ” she said, “I haven’t heard from him in several years. I wonder how Mark is.” Her father responded quietly, “Mark has been killed in Vietnam. His funeral is tomorrow and his parents would like you to attend.”

The church was packed and the service was a tribute to a fallen hero. But afterwards something totally unexpected happened. Mark’s mother and father came up to Sister Mrosla and said, “We want to show you something.” Opening his wallet, the father pulled out a wad of papers to show her. “They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it. He carefully revealed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded, and refolded many times. The papers were the ones on which sister Mrosla listed all the good things each of Mark’s classmates said about him that day in junior high.

It was just words, but he carried it around all his life — like one of his greatest treasures — because words matter. They have power, power to shape for good, power to lift up, power to give hope. It’s called a blessing. When you give one to your son or daughter, you are calling them to their future. You don’t know if it’s just a word, because you don’t know how much those words might matter in someone’s life.

Who do you need to bless? What do you need to say? Don’t leave those words unsaid, they matter far too much.