As a child, I received the same common lesson of “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” as many other children throughout the years. Solid advice, but obviously the person who came up with the saying didn’t have two sisters growing up. Of course, even now, I find that despite my best efforts, this age old idea seems to slip through my grasp time and time again. However, as the years have gone by, I’ve realized this is not just a set in stone, you either do it or you don’t kind of rule. As the math classes I continually blanked out on in school would have taught me, variables often change the eventual outcome. What happens when there is a time I really need to say something to someone, but nothing comes to mind? Is not saying anything at all now worse than simply opening my mouth and saying anything? And what if I mean well by what I say, but it affects the other individual in a totally undesired way? Sadly, my parents did not teach me about the deep psychological vacillating of a human mind, so I did not know the answer.
At times, saying nothing can truly be the most powerful demonstration of hope and support, as no words can demonstrate the inner feelings of the human spirit. During a recent professional football game, the New England Patriots looked past their competitive nature and made a meaningful human connection, without actually saying a word. Devon Still, a member of the visiting Cincinnati Bengals, has a four-year-old daughter who is battling cancer. During a timeout, the Patriots displayed true class by presenting a pediatric cancer tribute, all while the entire Patriot’s cheerleading squad donned Devon Still jerseys (Patriot’s owner Robert Kraft also donated $25,000 to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital). The image of Mr. Still says it all and proves it is not always necessary to speak a word to connect on a truly deeper, personal and emotional level.
Now, there are also those times where someone might mean well, but it might strike you in a completely different way. Almost five years ago, my father died. It still sounds odd. Five years. I could have sworn it happened only a few months ago. During this time, myself, as everyone else in my family, received an on pouring of support, phone calls, cards and other ways of lending shoulders to cry on and ears for me to speak to. I honestly couldn’t tell you what most of the people said or wrote. Except for one person. While at the reception dinner, an individual talking to me spoke another age-old saying. “Everything happens for a reason.” Wrong answer, and the last thing I wanted to hear at the time. All I could think of was “yeah, like me stabbing you in the forehead with this plastic spork.” People might mean well, and in their own way, they think it is nice to say, but still, they probably shouldn’t say it. They probably wouldn’t say the same to Devon Still about his daughter, so why say it to me at that point in time?
Perhaps there should be a second sentence to that common lesson taught during childhood. Something like “if someone is trying to say something nice, take it as something nice.” I know the person meant well. And I know that understanding what to say to someone in such a situation is nearly impossible, even if you have gone through the same ordeal yourself before. Usually just being there for them, staying later than the rest of the visitors, donning a player on the opposite team’s jersey and not saying a thing is a far better sign of support.
Or, you could be like my old friend here who showed support for her friend battling breast cancer (she named her tumor Molly) by making a pretty kick ass video. I’ll leave you with the video, and a side note that next week my post should be all video. My fingers are tired of typing.