Friday, March 5, 2010

Letters and Words

Whew! It's been one of those runnin' crazy kind of weeks, and my writing has consisted primarily of making comments on student papers . . . time to get grades entered, uploaded, and exported for progress reports . . . and then on to district benchmark testing . . . Yippee!

Not having time to really write only reminds me of how much I love words and miss them when I don't have time to play with them. (Oldest Daughter shares this love of letters with with me and gave me one of those adorable antique typewriter key bracelets you can find on Etsy.) I say, play, but as any speaking, reading, or hearing person can attest, words are powerful things. And once they're out there . . . well, they're out there. One can forgive the occasional careless word and even -- with Supernatural help -- those thought-out, loaded-weapon words hurled with skillful aim, but it's the forgetting that's hard, if not outright impossible. Words, regardless of how or why they were spoken, linger long after arriving at their intended destination.

It was thinking about words that caused me to pull up this post from last year . . .

Mama Bug. Mama Bear. Mama Muz. Muz. Rev. Queen. Queenie. Pam'la. Pammy.

Just a few of the names I readily answer to, along with Jaja ("Grandmother" in Runyankore, a southwestern Ugandan dialect), Senga ("Auntie" in the previously mentioned language), Preacher Woman, Booger. (Don't ask.)

When I worked construction, the field engineers dubbed me Space Bandit. (Those guys knew I was blonde before I was.) My youngest daughter sometimes calls me Pammster Hamster, and my father used to refer to me as Daddy's Mess (which he acknowledged as a reflection on his parenting skills rather than on me).

Still, I don't suffer from multi-personality disorder. Maybe because I once read an Indian proverb that said, "The child with many names is much loved," and I guess I believed it. Probably, too, because my own "many names" have always made me feel loved. Even Daddy's Mess and Booger. (I told you not to ask.)

In my head, each name brings with it a certain inflection, a tone -- a memory chip, if you will -- that evokes the faces and voices of people who've made me laugh, cry, giggle, sometimes raise my own voice, or sometimes just grin a little.

I don't know if no one ever really called me anything bad or if my sanguine brain just refuses to remember. I mean, I do recall the night a man jumped out of his little red sports car at a stoplight and raged, "Bitch!" directly at me because he'd finally passed and pulled in front of the truck he thought I was driving too slow. And I know "the girl with the big boobs" was an all-to0-common description of me in high school by the guys who couldn't remember the new girl's name. Still, all in all, I've never been verbally tattooed with something ugly enough, often enough, to have needed emotional laser treatment to have it removed.

Never been repeatedly called Bitch, as if it were my name.

Or Stupid.

Or Nigger.

Nigger Lover.





Worthless Pig.

Hurts to even write those words, but I know that there are those who live with those names daily -- or have lived with them so long that they still hear them everyday, even when there's no one around any longer to spew them. They are the walking wounded among us. Some are still oozing from open sores, some hemorrhaging from gaping holes. For others, the tourniquet is temporarily tightened while awaiting surgery yet to be scheduled.

Those of us who bear smooth skin, those who are unmarked those kinds of scars, or who perhaps do bear the marks and memories of past battles but now walk the road of healing and recovery, must choose to to look to our left and to our right for those who are not yet with us. We must train our eyes to see those who stand, dazed, just off the path, those who are waiting for someone to stop and pour the oil and wine over their wounds, bind them up, and then gently lead and guide them to a place of sanctuary. A place where old names are replaced with new ones. Beloved. Precious. Mine.

And we must choose also to stop the hurling of hatred where we are able. We must not look the other way when weapons of words are used against those who are vulnerable to such attacks.

Sound lofty and noble?

Good for a "devotional" thought but hard to put into practical practice?

Not at all. How about we start by stopping the forwarding of E-mails that flail against the short-comings -- real or imagined -- of one group or another? That pit one group against another?

How about refusing to listen to jokes that depend on the humiliation or stereo-typing of one ethnic group or another for their "punch"?

How about correcting the kid in the grocery store who slurs another kid or group of people, even when we're not that kid's parent and not a certified teacher? (We teachers already take license to correct kids everywhere, in and out of the classroom. You should try it; it's actually quite fun.)

How about being sensitive to the inferences we make in front of our children (and grandchildren) about those who differ from us.

How about refusing to publicly choose a political party for Jesus? (Believe it or not, I happen to know some fine folks in each party.)

Little things, people. Little things. But we can all start somewhere. One word at a time.

Beloved. Precious. Mine.

Loving you for who you are,


PS I love that the bracelet from Oldest Daughter has the "SHIFT" key as its centerpiece. It's a visible reminder that I often need to "shift" my thoughts before I open my mouth.


  1. What a great post! Words can hurt, and sting, and stay a life time with us. Shifting our thoughts also reminds me to shift my thoughts to what Jesus thinks of me, not what others or even I think of me.
    Taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ...and then living like we believe it!

  2. I love the way you THINK!
    I love the way you WRITE!

    I love the way you make ME think and write!!

  3. Great post!

    Blessings to you!

  4. Pamm, wouldn't it be nice to be able to backspace often!!

    come see my fun meme today regarding your neighbor. believe it or not.

  5. Two thoughts popped into my mind as I read your post. First, my Daddy called my "sputnik" after the Russian space ship (tells ya when I was born, huh?). Second, when I worked as a telephone operator, I learned people will call you anything when they don't have to look you in the face as they say it; my day was rarely complete if I hadn't been called "Bitch" or worse, at least once!

  6. I LOVE that bracelet. I'm such a word geek.

    Greetings from another Texas Blogger!

  7. Such precious words from a sweet lady. I just told my Hubby the other day how proud I am that our kids, when describing someone at school (that we don't know) have never once mentioned the color of their skin in their description. Not once. I love that it doesn't even occur to them. One thing we don't tolerate is making fun of other people - for any reason. I have always stuck up for the kids that tend to get made fun of, even when I was little. I think God has always prepared me to have kids that were "different" (in our case autistic).

    Thanks for writing such wonderful reminders of how God wants us to be. You always inspire me to be better than I already am.

  8. Wonderful post! As a fellow English teacher, I love me some words, too! The bracelet is beautiful and an excellent reminder to "shift" when needed. I think I need one, don't you?

    Love your blog, Pamm!