Getting Used to Saying Things a Different Way
I know I just spoke about Randy Pausch and how he talked in his “Last Lecture” about how to say things so people will hear what we say instead of turning away from our words. After he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he still continued to write and fill people’s lives with joy, even though he knew with certainty his days on this earth were numbered. One of his quotes that I just love was “I'm dying and I'm having fun. And I'm going to keep having fun every day I have left.” Wowee, if we could all live our lives like that, wouldn’t it be a glorious day. Speaking of Glorious Day, as I was walking (by myself, because I have been grounded for now to walk the dogs on the leash while I am healing and still having some pretty intense procedures done), I heard this song on my “Recovery Playlist”. If you want an uplift for the day, take a moment to listen/watch this Casting Crowns video of “Glorious Day”. It is so very beautiful and reminds me of one of my dear nurses, Michelle, who completed her doctorate with me and gave up her precious weekend to come nurse me with nasty procedures and tons of laughter.
I was thinking about this whole “how we say things” issue, as I have openly put out the details (not all, I promise) of the tour of breast cancer and double mastectomy and now the recovery. I know that by doing that, I open myself to people offering their condolences (which is okay, but I am not planning my demise, more about my “get up and go”) or their stories of “my grandmother just died last month from breast cancer but I’m sure you’re going to be okay”. Friends, Dave, and I laugh about those well-meant but horribly timed statements because honestly, sometimes we just don’t know what to say..
I have a confession to make (I know you love these). I adored being an elementary school principal for seven years (that’s not the confession, by the way). Loved it!!!!! (most days). But I remember distinctly the first time I saw the hair raise on the back of a parent from something I said. Let me be clear. I know I wasn’t perfect in any way, shape, or form in what I did, but I tried to live my life as a principal as God would have me live. Listen to others, love the kids unconditionally, love the teachers and staff with all my heart and be as kind and caring and welcoming to parents as I could possibly be. But there it was---the day the parent came in and said, “Ricky came home yesterday and said that Mrs. Figowitz (have you gotten the idea that the names have been changed to protect the innocent?) told Ricky he was the worst writer she had ever had.” Here’s what I know. Mrs. Figowitz was one of the best teachers with whom I had ever had the privilege to work, so I knew it wasn’t true. But I made the fatal flaw. Without asking more questions or asking Ricky to come up and tell me exactly what was said, I bristled as only a Mama Bear can, and said, “Wow, I can’t believe that. I’ve never heard any ill words said by Mrs. Figowitz.” What did the parent do? Got furious, not surprisingly and the reaction was something like, “I don’t care if she’s ever done it before but she did it yesterday.” When you are mad, you’re mad and no amount of telling someone an argument against their complaint is going to help. I have talked with many administrators about this issue since that time and we have figured out that sometimes, parents just want to vent. Sometimes, when we get Ricky in the room, the story changes dramatically because he isn’t going to tell stories (usually) in front of the principal. But sometimes, we find out the truth is somewhere in the middle. The teacher said something that sounded “off” to Ricky but the innuendo was missed.
Just for today, I would like to remind each and every one of us (me included, of course) to simply think about the words we say before we say them and think about how they might be received. And, in doing that, a great thing to do is put good in and good will come out. Listen to beautiful music, read uplifting literature, talk to people who build you up and not talk negatively. In the meantime,