The wise King Solomon said, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). What can a good word do? The following story was sent to me by a friend. Read it and be wise. Better still, send it on to others that we all may learn the outpouring effects of a good word written or spoken.
“One day a teacher asked her students to list the names of the other students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name. Then she told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down.
It took the remainder of the class period to finish their assignment, and as the students left the room, each one handed in the papers. That Saturday, the teacher wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper, and listed what everyone else had said about that individual.
On Monday she gave each student his or her list. Before long, the entire class was smiling. “Really?” she heard whispered. “I never knew that I meant anything to anyone!” and, “I didn’t know others liked me so much,” were the comments.
No one ever mentioned those papers in class again. She never knew if they discussed them after class, or with their parents, but it didn’t matter. The exercise had accomplished its purpose. The students were happy with themselves and one another. The group of students moved on.
Several years later, one of the students was killed in Viet Nam, and his teacher attended the funeral of that special student. She had never seen a serviceman in a military coffin before. He looked so handsome, so mature.
The church building was packed with friends. One by one, those who loved him took a last walk by the coffin. The teacher was the last one to bless the coffin. As she stood there, one of the soldiers who acted as pallbearer came up to her. “Were you Mark’s math teacher”, he asked. She nodded yes. “Mark talked about you a lot.”
After the funeral, most of Mark’s former classmates went to a luncheon together. Mark’s mother and father were there, obviously waiting to speak with his teacher. “We want to show you something,” his father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket. “They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it.”
Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and unfolded many times. The teacher knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which she had listed all the good things each of Mark’s classmates had said about him.
“Thank you so much for doing that,” Mark’s mother said. “As you can see, Mark treasured it.” All of Mark’s classmates started to gather around. Charlie smiled and rather sheepishly said, “I still have my list. It’s in the top drawer of my desk at home.” Chuck’s wife said, “Chuck asked me to put his in our wedding album. “I have mine too,” Marilyn said, “It’s in my diary.” Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group. “I carry this with me all the time,” Vicki said, and without batting an eyelash, she continued, “I think we all saved our list.”
That’s when the teacher finally sat down and cried. She cried for Mark and for all his friends that would never see him again on the earth”.
There are many ‘wonder-working words that often go unwritten or unspoken. How many times have we kept silent when the occasion cried out for simple words like these: “I am sorry.” “I was wrong.” “Forgive me.” “Thank you.” “You’re very kind.” “That was so generous of you.” “I appreciate your help.” “I Love you.” “You are an inspiration to me.”
The ancients said, “Opportunity is like a half-bald-headed woman. You must grasp her as she approaches, for when she passes by, it’s too late!” Jesus said, “In the power of words are life and death”. Words can often clear up misunderstandings. Some can heal an incipient break in a friendship. Words can carry hope and hope drives away fear. “Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop, but a good word maketh it glad” (Proverbs 12:25). The lack of humility too often keeps us silent.
Honesty, sincerity and unselfishness will make it easy, even natural to use these words when they are called for. As we speak them, they will work wonders in two directions, for “he who gives a rose, the fragrance remains within his hands”. Truly, “A word fitly spoken (or written) is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”