During difficult times, I often struggle to find the “right words” to say to those who are suffering.
My first instinct is to acknowledge the pain the sufferer is experiencing and express my sympathy. I want to say things like “It’ll be okay,” “I’m so sorry,” “You have my condolences,” “You’re in my thoughts and prayers.”
But, deep down, I know that the sufferer has already heard these phrases dozens of times. If we can offer the sufferer words and take the time to inquire more about what they need to heal, then those words are right and fair. However, when no mindful, sufferer-centric action is taken, the more often phrases like “You’re in my thoughts and prayers” are said, the less substance they have.
If I can’t find the “right words to say” or write, I usually try to find a writer who has already expressed the sentiments I feel in my heart. Carefully selected words can spark a light in dim, tired souls.
To my non-religious friend whose mother was battling COVID-19, I sent Emily Dickinson’s “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers.” For family friends who lost their brother and sister-in-law to a sudden, unfortunate accident, I sent them a more religious verse.
Writers capture feelings and observations in the moment, preserving them in time. They are there for anybody to find. Words are released into the world to find the voids that they were destined to fill.
As a writer and teacher, my job is to give words to those who need it. But sometimes, the more words you give to help others, the fewer words you have to help yourself. The word-giver, therefore, needs to rest and reflect to recover. Sometimes, I turn to something greater to replenish my words; sometimes it’s God, sometimes it’s my muse, sometimes it’s the universe, sometimes it’s time, sometimes it’s messages from the lips of family, friends, and even strangers.
The more I use my words, the more power I have. The more power I have, the more wisdom I must use. The more wisdom I must use, the more exhausted I get. This poem manifested as a plea from my heart: “May wisdom be sustained during times of difficulty. May we always find the right words to comfort those who are suffering.”
Poets Pray in Haikus
Dear God, You gave me
the gift of words. May I use
them for good. Always.
Use me so that I
may use words to instill love
and compassion in
the lives of all those
who cross my path. May my words,
written or spoken,
pain or hate that rests in hearts.
May my own heart and
soul feel less and less
heaviness as I breathe in
and out whispers of
release. Release me
from the strong binds of silence
that may cross my lips
when I am tempted
to not speak out when I should.
May my words give the
gift that You gave to
me: the ability to
speak and heal. Amen.