Be Careful What You…


Carl Sandberg’s photo is small, like his poem “Primer Lesson.” Despite its brevity, this poem sparked many lively discussions in the years that I taught freshman English.

Look out how you use proud words.
When you let proud words go, it is not easy to call them back. They wear long boots, hard boots; they walk off proud; they can’t hear you calling —
Look out how you use proud words.

Not only was this the style phone we had in 1950, but we were also on a 6-party line. When anyone received a call, all six families heard the ringer. One long and two short rings meant the call was for us. Our sons, let alone our grandchildren, cannot conceive of this archaic system.

Fast forward to 1980, and a chat about something mom had never shared with me:

Once friends and even some family heard that I had polio and was hospitalized, my mother was the recipient of phone conversations about why she had allowed me to play with their children. At times, people on the streets of town crossed rather than walk by her. I wept for her fear, her loneliness, her lack of support from people she knew.

It is crucial to interact with those in pain, suffering and grief, but we must be careful in what we say and what we do.

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