The Shaping Power of Language
I have always had a tender heart for animals. As a child, I cried when I left wooly worms behind on the path, I cried when I watched Lassie (my mother would try to keep me from watching it and then hear me sobbing from under the desk in the living room as Lassie waved her paw at the end of the show), I agonized over leaving my stuffed animals when I went to a friend's house for a sleepover.
Okay, you guessed it. I was an odd child.
But the other day, 40-some years later, I had a little epiphany about it. I looked outside and thought, "Poor flowers--look how hot it is and how much they need a drink." Later, I thought, "Poor birds--they need fresh water in the bird bath."
And then I became curious about the language I was using in my head. Where did that "poor" come from? Why do I feel bad for everything, concerned for its welfare, sure that it is suffering in some way from the natural elements? Maybe the flowers are simply a bit too warm--just like we get--in the late afternoon sun? Perhaps the birds are on their way to a little lake somewhere else, not dependent on the bird bath in my backyard as their only source of fresh water.
What would happen to my language, my feelings, and my expectations of the world (and God's provision for it) if I stopped putting that word "Poor..." in front of everything? What if I substituted the word "Blessed" instead?
"Look at that blessed little bird...free to fly with other birds, alive on this gorgeous day, able to sing and bring joy to others!"
"Wow, what blessed flowers. How did they get so tall? And what radiant faces they have, especially in the morning and evening, in the cooler part of the day. (And aren't they lucky to have me to care for them? And aren't I lucky to have them to bring such beauty to my day?)"
I am going to become more aware of my use of the word "poor." What in God's creation can be poor? How can we be cut off from God's abundance? Whether we--in this moment, and then this one, and then this one--are the receiving or the giving heart, we are all part of God's ever-present harmony. I wonder whether we can make more blessing visible in this world if we look out through eyes trained to see the good that's already here.