Sticks and stones may hurt my bones but words will never hurt me.
I can’t imagine who came up with this saying, surely sticks and stones may hurt my bones but that’ll heal however words could hurt me forever is more apt?!!!
I am not minimising physical abuse in any way however during my 15 years at Women’s Aid, women often stated that the emotional abuse was far more difficult, demoralising and long-standing than the physical side.
In a week where I have been called ‘a disappointment’ (which I probably did deserve) it got me thinking about words and what we say to each other, whether we realise the impact of those words and more importantly how little time we spend talking face to face.
Talking is disappearing fast, when’s the last time you picked up your phone to speak to someone and have a long conversation. On the radio this week it said we are spending over 11 years of our life on gadgets. 11 years!!! I don’t think we can fight this phenomena nor do I want to, technology can be amazing – however we probably need to start fighting to keep our language, our words, our expression, our books, our letters, our conversation, our time.
With this in mind I want to relay a little story that may seem insignificant but it was a short moment this week that encapsulated how words and time can change someone’s day.
I was driving to a meeting, I’ve been going through an ‘e-bay’ phase lately. Selling all that stuff that I’ve bought either without trying on or when I was feeling ’hopeful’ about my dress size, anyway I had a couple of packages to send and needed to get to the post office. I usually end up in those larger post offices – perspex screens, talking through a sliver of space, large queues, people frustrated at the wait, minimal chat. However, as I drove through a little village I noticed a shop/post office which I have passed many times and decided to pop in there.
It reminded me of my village shop when I was little, a tiny space of a couple of square metres but packed with the most gorgeous stuff, cards, cushions, drinks, food, home made cakes and even jars of sweets. No perspex, no barriers, one side for the shop and one side for the post office.
There was only one woman working, I was second in the queue.
The lady in front was at a guess in her late 70’s, she was obviously local as they chatted easily. The shop keeper was one of those warm gorgeous people, lovely red long hair, softly spoken, kind. I realised very quickly that I was not going to be ‘in and out’ of this post office as I normally would. They chatted while money was withdrawn and I stood half-wishing that I had gone to another post office at this point. I looked around and read the posters in the shop – local fundraising events, community meetings, sport events, it would be impossible to feel lonely in this shop – it was clear it was the absolute hub of the community. As the pair carried on talking the tiny shop now had another three customers waiting behind me and that basically filled the shop. The money was counted out and I looked at my phone and saw I had plenty of time to get to my meeting thinking I was next in the queue and I’d be on my way in a few minutes.
The lady put her pension money away and got out a shopping bag. Can I have a few things she said to the red-headed shopkeeper? Of course, she replied and moved from post office counter to shop counter. Oh god, I thought. How long is this going to take?!!!
The red-head was up and down in the fridge, measuring out sweets, discussing cakes, comparing pastries, reading out the sell by date on the milk, ordering newspapers. Eventually it seemed the lady had finished what seemed like a weekly shop for eight people. I can’t lie that I wasn’t a tiny bit frustrated, we aren’t used to being kept waiting are we these days – everything is ready in a minute. However the time spent between these two people was really beautiful, it almost made me cry and right there I thought – we don’t do enough of this any more, we don’t stop and talk and really make time for people.
The shopkeeper packed up the shopping and offered to carry the bag home for the lady! The lady refused and said she’d be fine. Finally, the interaction seemed to be coming to an end when the lady decided she wanted one more thing. Some beef. Ooo that beef looks nice, she said as she pointed at some pre-packed slices under the counter. I’ll have one of them. I kid you not that the shopkeeper brought every packet of sliced beef (about nine of them) on top of the shop counter and asked the lady to pick out which one she’d like. Ooo, I don’t know the lady said and then started to play the game – eenie meenie miney mo!!! The shopkeeper just stood there smiling. The lady finally decided on one pack and with it started laughing, really laughing – belly laughing at the whole scenario. I turned around and the whole queue started laughing quietly too, including me, because her laugh was so infectious it was impossible not to.
The lady left with her shopping, still laughing and saying goodbye to us all, the shop-keeper came back to the post office side and looked at me apologetically, smiling, I’m so sorry about the delay. Please don’t be sorry, I said – and found myself adding – it’s so nice to see people actually spending time on others, speaking to them, helping them, we don’t do enough of it and with it reminded myself that the words we speak and the time we spend with people is what is remembered and what’s so very important in life.
Happy Sunday to you all