When I was in the third grade, we had to move into town from out in the beautiful country. I didn’t take it well. It was devastating to me, and on top of having to give up our wonderful little farm, we had to give our beloved collie dog, Shep, away. My parents thought it would be wise to give him to another family who lived out in the country so he could still run around and have lots of space. So… we all drove out to their house one day – 14 miles away from ours, and gave them Shep. I can still VIVIDLY remember my little brother and I in the back of our station wagon, driving away down their long driveway, bawling.
If you know anything about collies, you’ll know that they are a very loyal and trustworthy breed. They don’t take well to changing masters, and Shep LOVED us four kids. He herded us, watched over us, we were his JOB. Collies need a purpose in life – and we were his. The new kids were afraid of him. They didn’t spend any time with him, and he was kept chained up out back – with NO ONE to herd or play with.
So Shep chewed through the rope or broke the chains and ran away 3-4 times – all the way back to our farm. Even after we had moved out he went back there. The new owners of Shep would call us and say that he was gone again. So, my dad would drive out to the farm and see if he was there. Sure enough. Every time… he would be sitting on the front porch, muddy, sticker laden, sometimes bleeding paws. But he would be SO excited to see my dad!! Thinking he would finally get to come back to his family… but every time, my dad would take him back to the “mean people’s” house and drop him off once more. (Thinking that this was best for Shep of course. In hindsight, my parents felt terrible over their decision to give him away.)
Well, these “people” who got Shep, had a girl in the same class as me at school. We didn’t get along very well. She was a prissy-snobby-foofoo type girl, and I was a tomboy. She didn’t like dogs – or any creatures – and I loved them all. She had black hair, I had blond. She was real smart, I was… I liked to play outside! The only thing we had in common was that we were both abnormally tall for our age. Usually, opposites get along just fine – sometimes even better than if you were both alike, but we didn’t.
One day, she came up to me and said she had something to tell me. She led me back behind the school building and told me with, a smile on her face, that Shep had died. (They had taken him in to get him fixed and he died on the operating table – before anything was even done yet.) As my eyes welled up with tears, she got almost giddy telling me that the vet thought me may have died of a broken heart. Then she proceeded to tell me he was just a dumb’ole dog and I was a wussy for being so upset.
I took her out.
After I was pried off of her and we were bandaged up – we had to wait in the principles office while they called our parents.
My mom came to take me home for the rest of the day. I was in big trouble.
My mom’s advice, after hearing my side of the story, was… yes, you guessed it… “Just remember that sticks and stones may hurt your bones, but her words can never hurt you.”
Well, you know what? They did. And I remember them. I don’t remember our injuries… but I do remember her hurtful words. I had always though of her as mean – but she crossed the line when she started verbally attacking my (now dead) dog. I guess I can kind’of see how they may have meant that phrase… but it’s just a horrible thing to tell a kid who is dealing with a bully. Words DO hurt. And they (unfortunately) stay with you FOREVER.
Words can be like a sword. And once said, they plunge into their victim – too late to take back.
Most of us have been guilty of using our tongues as a weapon at one time or another in our lives. I know I have. Probably more than I even know of. It makes me sad to think about that. But the best way to make up for those mistakes is to make a big effort to watch my words more carefully now, and to teach my children that what comes out of their mouths is powerful – with the possibilities of hurting or helping someone at all times.
Watch your tongue. Use it wisely.
Here’s my new phrase: Sticks and stones may be sharp, but the words I use will shape a heart.
It’s late, and I’m just rambling… I’ll stop.