Words’ impact can last for life; choose wisely

Day by Day: Words’ impact can last for life; choose wisely

By LIZ THOMPSON

January 22, 2018
This Week News

Words are powerful. They can make us smile, cry, rejoice or doubt. They can inspire us to improve, learn, apologize, question, create and think.

If you doubt the power of written or spoken words, consider the words “I do” spoken at a wedding and all that promise implies.

Think of the parent when a child says his or her first word — especially if it’s Mama, Papa or a version of the same.

The old retort to deflect cruel words, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” may work only for the moment. The long-term effects can be devastating if we are told often enough, especially when young, that we are stupid, ugly or other equally nasty names, and we believe it. We can only hope there is plenty of positivity in those same taunted lives — or that we can be there to soften the blows.

Authors of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and music have entertained, informed and given us reasons to sing and dance since the first word was written, the first instrument was fashioned and the first words sung.

As a writer, I respect words, and think through many times before submitting a column. I have done just that for 20 years this month. That’s a lot of words — and I have loved every minute.

I asked some friends what words they believe hold power.

Don Huiner, from Worthington, chose his power words in two groups. He placed despise, loathe, contemptible and worthless in one group; in the other, treasure, cherish, respect, value and thankful. I spy two words in the last group of positives that were turned into popular songs.

Pat Vincent, who lives in Grandview Heights, said, “When somebody says, ‘How are you doing, really?’ you know that they really want to know. They’re not just being polite.”

When I think about how many times a day we might say, “How are you?” without waiting for a reply, his words ring true.

Pat also said when a person looks at something you have done or said and responds, “That’s nice,” you can be pretty sure they are only being polite.

Dee Standish, whom I’ve known since kindergarten, said: ”‘I am here for you if you need me’ are powerful words for two reasons. The first, (you are) letting someone know you care and will support their needs. Second, it allows the person in need the freedom to respond when they might be vulnerable in varying situations. There is no pressure on either side.”

When words, or what we might think are the “right” words, seem to escape us, words of action or support suffice beautifully, as Dee says.

I wasn’t surprised when a friend from church, Mariann Rowe, chose hope as her most powerful word. One synonym for hope is faith.

When we hear bad news, in particular, hope can sustain us. We say we hope something good lasts. How often we say, “I can only hope … ” or “I hope you have a good day.”

I love reading fiction. I’m selective with the genre because I don’t need fearful or negative topics swirling through my head.

Some time back, I wrote my first novel. Since I’d always written nonfiction, the mechanics of writing fiction required research.

My first try was rejected by two publishers, but with good advice. Their words were powerful because they didn’t just say “no,” but they softened the blow with advice I took to heart. I knew I had a lot to learn. More research and more rewrites followed.

The last rejection told me to consider writing in third person, not first. I shifted gears, turned around and started again.

Words of rejection are hard to hear, but with practical advice, I was led to hope, to improve and to learn. That’s powerful.

Most people can name at least one author, song, speaker or teacher that had a lasting effect in their lives. My bet is those words they read or heard were positive.

We control the power of the words we speak or write when we take time to really listen and choose hopeful, caring words.

 

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Twenty years of words

Twenty years of words

Twenty years ago this month (January 2018) I sent what I thought was a letter to the Editor to Suburban News Publications (SNP) about living with hearing loss.

A few days later, I got a call through my TTY (Text Telephone). Someone was calling me through the Ohio Relay Service for the Deaf.

When I read, “Hi Liz, this is Cliff Wiltshire, Commentary Editor for Suburban News Publications,” I was stunned.

Very few people contacted me in this way. He asked if I sent him the letter that began, “I can’t hear you when I yawn…” I told him it was me.

“I hardly have to change a word,” he went on to say. “It will be in the newspaper next week.” I typed back (and the operator voiced my words) a thank you.

The next week I opened my Booster newspaper and saw my words staring at me with Guest Columnist next to my name. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect that.

After that, ideas flowed into words and I sent my thoughts to Cliff monthly. Cliff became the ultimate editor for this novice writer. He gently guided me to improve my writing to get my point across in the 800-plus words allowed, in those days.

Eventually he asked for a photo. That photo has changed, as well as my byline, over the years: Guest Columnist with no photo, to the same with a photo, and eventually changed to Staff Reporter.

Cliff told me, once I was on staff at the newspaper as a copydesk typist, to think of a name for my column. I brainstormed with my coworkers – Lisa Proctor, Dorothy Stoyer, Mary Mattison and others whose names elude me.

Nothing sparked interest.

One evening, my husband said, “How about day by day?” I loved it and asked him why he thought of that.

“Because that’s how you live.”

With my late onset deafness and MS, I really have no real choice but to live this way. But my faith in God really directs my steps and Bob knew all this about me.

Plus, my maiden name is Day.

Once I became a reporter, in 2000, I met so many people with unique stories that I had new material for columns. I was glad to redirect my topics away from just me.

We moved to Arizona in 2003 and I was fortunate to have The Arizona Republic newspaper run my column for more than two years. My topics changed to my perceptions of a transplanted life from green, seasonal Ohio to the desert.  I wrote about the water issues, my experiences working in the schools and daily life.

Once back in Ohio, in late 2005, Suburban News Publications welcomed me back. Eventually, the newspaper was bought and now I write for This Week News.

I have kept paper copies of all my columns. In 2007, I started to put them in a file in word processing, thinking that someday my grandchildren might want to read them.

As I started typing, I thought I would add my inspiration for each column. Then I remembered the wonderful letters I’d received ‘snail mail’ and added those.

One day I said, “This is a book.” Many of my early columns were about my hearing loss, eventual deafness and my cochlear implants, so I proposed my book to Gallaudet University Press – the only university for the Deaf in the U.S. In those days, authors sent a hard copy and double spaced at that.

They took it, edited it, and published it as “Day by Day, the Chronicles of a Hard of Hearing Reporter.” Even though I was deaf, I wasn’t born Deaf, as Deaf culture dictates, so the title read this way.

All the editors at SNP, Cliff, the late Marty Rozenman – who wrote the foreword in this book – and Joe Meyer and others stood by me, and I know it wasn’t always easy.

Thanks to the people at SNP, my dream of publishing happened in January 1998 and I can’t seem to stop writing.

Thanks for listening all these years.