The echo of kind words can be endless | Opinion | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | August 21, 2016 6:00 pm
Last Updated: August 21, 2016 at 9:41 am
Kathleen Parker began writing as a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel in 1987. Today she writes for The Washington Post and her columns appear in more than 400 print and online news outlets. She has worked for five newspapers during her career and several magazines. In 1993 she won the H. L. Mencken Writing Award presented by the Baltimore Sun. In addition, The Week magazine named her one of the nation’s top five columnist in 2004 and 2005. She won a Pulitzer Prize in 2010. She even co-hosted a cable news program on CNN with former New York governor Eliot Spitzer for a time.
However, with all Parker has written, I didn’t know much about her until recently, and what caught my attention wasn’t something she wrote, but something that happened to her as a child. Author Tim Gustafson described how young Kathleen was called to the front of a grammar class to analyze a sentence. She had only recently moved to a new class and in her old school had not learned how to do what the teacher was asking. When it became obvious she didn’t know how to do the assignment, her classmates began laughing at her.
Thankfully, the teacher sprang to her defense. He told the class, “She can out-write any of you any day of the week.” Kathleen recalled that moment many years later and said, “I started that day to write as well as I could.” The day marked the beginning of Kathleen Parker’s journey to become one of America’s most influential female columnists.
You never know how a kind word may change someone’s life. What if that teacher had not come to her defense? We will never know, but it’s very unlikely that Kathleen Parker’s words would have entertained and influenced a generation of Americans.
Jesus’ challenge to love your neighbor like you love yourself applies nowhere more than to our words. We may never know how a kind word helps someone or how a harsh word may cut someone who is already in deep pain. Mother Teresa was absolutely correct when she said, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”
In a world where harsh words have become the norm instead of the exception, God challenges us to use words to build others up instead of tearing them down. Columnist Andy Rooney got it right when he once said, “Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.” That’s very good advice!
(Tim Richards is pastor at South County Refuge Church in Oakville, Mo. Reach him via firstname.lastname@example.org)