Sunday, October 18, 2015

Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words

A couple of months ago, I was sitting on my front porch waiting for my oldest son to return home from school. His bus pulled up to the stop down the street and let off the kids. A girl rushed ahead of the rest and stopped. She slipped off her shoes and continued to walk barefoot.

Two boys, upon seeing this, yelled out taunts. "What's that smell? Whoo, put your shoes back on!"

The girl ignored them and continued to walk, but I couldn't pretend I hadn't heard those words. I called them out and warned them if I ever saw them do that again, I would have words with their parents.

Even though the situation had been dealt with, I often wonder about that girl. How did those words affect her?

Growing up, there were things said to and about me that still haunt me today. Some were deliberate. Others spoken in the heat of anger or frustration. Sometimes, it was the lack of words that stung the most.

Words are most powerful things, capable of starting wars and destroying relationships. Cruel words can never be erased. I once read a story that illustrates that point beautifully. A teacher had her students hold a piece of paper.

"This is a person," she said. "Look at how pure and perfect it is." She then had them crumple their paper into a ball.

"This is what happens when that person is bullied." She instructed the students to uncrumple the paper and smooth out the wrinkles as best they could. While many made a valiant effort, no one was able to erase the lines completely.

Just as uncrumpling the paper will make it usable again, apologizing and making amends can help repair a situation, but there will always be evidence of the damage inflicted.

Bullying is only one aspect of this. While I never experienced true bullying, I have been hurt by words carelessly spoken. In fact, those the words spoken in a careless moment have been the ones that have hurt the most.

The hymn "Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words" was  composed while Brother Joseph L. Townsend, the composer, was serving in the superintendency of a very large Sunday School.

Let us oft speak kinds words to each other
At home or where'er we may be;
Like the warblings of birds on the heathers,
The tones will be welcome and free.
They'll gladden the heart that's repining,
Give courage and hope from above,
And where the dark clouds hide the shining,
Let in the bright sunlight of love.

Oh, the kind words we give shall in memory live
And sunshine forever impart.
Let us oft speak kind words to each other;
Kind words are sweet tones of the heart.

Like the sunbeams of morn on the mountains,
The soul they awake to good cheer;
Like the murmur of cool, pleasant fountains,
They fall in sweet cadences near,
Let's oft, then, in kindly toned voices,
Our mutual friendship renew,
Till heart meets with heart and rejoices
In friendship that ever is true.

Oh, the kind words we give shall in memory live
And sunshine forever impart.
Let us oft speak kind words to each other;
Kind words are sweet tones of the heart.

In the book Our Latter-Day Hymns: Stories and Messages of the Hymns by Karen Lynn Davidson, it quotes an excerpt from the Juvenile Instructor, published in 1879:
"[Brother Townsend] heard a number of fault-finding remarks among the people. It occurred to him how much finer it would be if he could hear kind words spoken oftener. With this thought in mind he wrote the song which has been translated into many languages. Some have called it his best sermon. It is said that it stopped the gossiping tongues of the people and produced a kindlier feeling in the town where he lived."
Let us oft speak kind words to each other. May we be the good memories in people's lives instead of the bad. For "Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones." (Proverbs 16:24)
 "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." ~ Ephesians 4:29-32

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