Last year I began a tradition with my AP students of giving the gift of words. We draw names, and students are challenged to give the gift of words to a fellow student. I leave this wide open because my students are so much more creative if I don’t box them in with ideas. On Thursday I witnessed students exchange thoughtful gifts of original poems, jars filled with 90 inspirational quotes (one for each school day until graduation), 50 reasons you’re my friend, decorative acrostics made from a name, cupcakes which spelled words, a roast for the class clown, books to go along with special interests, and the list goes on and on. I received a journal to records my words and a mug with quotes from books we read this year along with several handwritten notes. My heart was full.
I realized again yesterday, on my first day of break, how powerful the gift of words really is. I attended a wedding of a young woman whom I had the privilege of investing in while she was in middle school. This young woman is an amazing person, daughter, friend, sister, student, athlete, and Air Force cadet. On a day when the focus was on this sweet young couple, the bride’s mother chose to give the gift of words. She told me that because of my investment in her daughter, I have not only influenced the person she has become but the wife she will be. She retold some specific ways and stories that she remembered of me and her daughter. My heart was full once again.
The gift of words does not always present itself neatly wrapped with a velvet ribbon on top. Sometimes the gift of words is hard to give because speaking and receiving the truth can be difficult. But like an auger unclogging a drain, the right words when used with good intentions offer the possibility to open a path of communication in a closed relationship. Follow the advice of Anne Lamott when giving this gift: “You don’t always have to chop with the sword of truth. You can point with it too” (Bird by Bird).
As you prepare to spend time with family and friends over the next couple of weeks, I challenge you to invest in the next generation (and others in general) by not only giving material possessions but giving the gift of words. Write a letter, go out for coffee, take a walk, and give the gift of words to someone. Be creative. Take risks. Share without regret. Make someone’s heart full.