“I was so angry,” my brother and I were having a tearful conversation three days ago. “I was mad at everyone, even you. Everyone had left me. Daddy had been gone for three years. You and Nancy were married after graduation from the boarding school. Then Cindy and David were gone to the same school. I was alone. I planned everyday how to run away.” He went on to tell me he got in a fight daily at school when others taunted him about the issues of our father leaving the family.**
“Every day, every single day of that school year I heard negative, awful comments about the fact of my father’s desertion and how poor we were, more often from the teachers. One teacher would repeatedly voice such disdain, ‘Your father was a clergyman; how could he do this?’” Or, as she was counting lunch money for the students, ‘I know you’re poor, but surely you can find money without me having to count pennies.’ This was in front of the entire class.
“Oh, I was angry…
“Then one day, I heard words that changed my life… forever.”
At 16, my brother enrolled in the same boarding school as I and other siblings had attended; he was still angry and planned on leaving the school as soon as he could figure out a way to do so. One day, soon after classes began, a teacher asked him his name. He confessed, almost shamefully and she exclaimed… almost joyfully.
“You are one of the Brannons; you are the brother of Nancy, Barbara and Cindy. Wow! They are over achievers, and you are their brother. (Nancy and I had graduated earlier) You will make it.” She encouraged him further and went on her way.
She had no idea she had diverted a life crash!
Do you ever wish you could take words back? Or knew “then” what you know NOW. I wonder if those teachers at my brother’s first high school knew their negative, demeaning words were destroying a young life. We can forgive words, but they are never forgotten. How grateful I am for the forgiveness given me for words rashly spoken.
My brother credits the words of Miss Hyder, the teacher that asked his name, as words that literally changed the very course of his life. “I was suddenly proud I was who I was, and I no longer wanted to run away.”
One kind word can change someone’s entire day… (quote, source unknown) or their life.
Our words matter…
“You look awesome,” Almost song-like, kind, happy words mingled with the bright colors of Christmas as I was putting my groceries on the counter last week at Sprouts in Franklin, Tennessee. I looked around to see who he was speaking to. “It is you… I am telling you, you look awesome.”
Now why would an outgoing, well dressed young man say words to cheer an older lady’s tired heart? At 8:00 at night, after a long day of many stops and starts, they were surely nice to hear. I’m pretty sure I didn’t look awesome, but those words heaped joy and a tiny bit of excitement for the evening.
I think he knows how to “speak Christmas.”
“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24).
So, I’ve been thinking these last days… words are an amazing gift we speak into the lives of strangers, friends and most of all… to our family.
While reading the Christmas story in both Luke and Matthew, I smile at the words the angels spoke. In each chapter, words replace fear with joy; kind, patient words. To Joseph, to Mary and to the shepherds. (Luke 1, Matthew 1, Luke 2). Their words spoke affirmation to Mary in Luke 1:30; words granted Joseph the confidence he needed in a most difficult situation; and the angles promised hope to the shepherds.
Oh… to speak as angels this Christmas!
“… speak words that are helpful for building others up according to their needs, that they may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4: 29).
My brother was a success in life, and now, in his later years, with an incurable health issue, he remembers with tears, “Miss Hyder’s words changed my life… forever.”
… let’s speak Christmas this year and all year…
** (coming soon… you will meet my father in January, 2023; my book, A Journey from Scared and Scarred to Sacred, will be available on Amazon).