Next in line at the grocery check-out, I began to unload my cart-full of items onto the conveyor counter. Having shopped this store for years, I noticed the young, dark-haired man was new.
The young man greeted me with a shy smile, and inquired, as was customary at the time, "Would you like paper or plastic?"
I didn't have to think twice. Because of the number of heavy items, I would choose paper. I liked paper bags, but also knew the store was trying to encourage customers to choose plastic. I didn't mind if the lighter-weight items were bagged in plastic.
"Could you please give me paper bags for the heavy items and plastic bags for the lighter ones?" I asked.
"Sure," the clerk responded, turning to his attendant. "Please give her paper bags for the heavy items and plastic bags for the lighter ones."
It was such a simple request, and yet one that stuck in my mind. I was surprised the clerk had repeated the exact same words I had spoken when addressing the attendant.
Such is the power of words! Asking for a paper bag--such a simple request! I was glad I had asked politely. Later I thought about the effect my words might have had if I'd been in a bad mood: "Paper bags ONLY for the heavy items," or "I don't care which ones you use!" The clerk may have repeated those same words to the boy bagging the groceries. Word, not so aptly spoken, would have had a different effect.
The rest of the day, I could not quit thinking about the impact of words. I thought of the way others had impacted my life with the words they used, such as people who had made a difference in my life. They had used positive, encouraging words.
I know I am guilty of not using words fittingly as I should. So many times negatives slip from my mouth, and some of the things I have said have caused those closest to me to feel sad, hurt, discouraged, or even angry. I always feel bad afterward. I do ask God for forgiveness, though, and pray I will do better.
A Bible verse from Proverbs 25:11 gives us an important reminder about the way we communicate: "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver."
I thought of how great is the power of words, and the people who have made a difference in my life, all because of the words they chose: "You can do it!"; "I have faith in you!", "Where there's a will, there's a way!" Strangers make a difference, too, spreading well-wishes with "Have a great day!"
Everything we speak (or write) could make a difference in someone's life. It is my hope to choose the right words (even if paper bags are not available!)
May your week be a positive one, and may your words shine brightly!