The Gravity of Words
I excitedly hurried my morning routine on that cool Tuesday in March as I slipped on my handmade earrings. I waited so anxiously to wear them after the many hours I spent tying six knots too many to prevent gravity from stealing the bulky turquoise beads from me.
I posed before my bathroom mirror while watching my ten-year old reflection smile back at me with her well-decorated ears that anticipated many compliments. Similar to the proximity of my earlobes to the “latest fashions,” I was way off with my predictions. Instead, sheer humiliation stripped my ears nude when heartbreaking words penetrated through them.
As I put my backpack down in Mrs. Provenzano’s fifth grade classroom, I heard a sassy little voice sneer, “Oh. My. GOD! Natalie! Why are you wearing those earrings? They’re SO ugly!” Cassidy was the queen bee and stung freely with the weaponry of words.
But words can also spread leadership until it pours out, soaking those around with positive enlightenment. So I verbalized some of the many hardships faced by barefoot people—those in poverty around the world—to my peers and used words to help initiate and advertise a shoe drive. Nearly four hundred lives were improved, and I owe a lot of this to the power of language.
Language matters, regardless of which one. I spent some afternoons teaching second graders how to speak Italian last year, and it reminded me of how much global cultures rely on words to communicate feelings, beliefs, facts, or even lessons, such as how I used English to explain how to say, for instance, “Ciao, mi chiamo Natalie. Come stai?” It keeps us together and steadily moving forward.
That same spring, I found myself peer coaching the jumpers on my track team. My friend, Brittani, was training to break fourteen feet on her long jump; it was the requirement for a varsity letter. During the penultimate meet of the season, she jumped just a foot shy of the varsity requirement, but her jump still gave her third place. Her attitude began to morph from collected and focused to excited and distracted. But I remembered how desperately Brittani wanted to reach her goal. I used words of encouragement to remind her of her capabilities. Her breathing and concentration grew deeper. She then stood at the runway with glowing confidence and jumped fourteen feet and one inch.
Being able to recognize the many pathways words can take—be it positive means of communication or an arsenal of destruction—I have learned through my transition into adulthood. In other words, the fact that words had the ability to change my entire opinion of my very own earrings shows me how much power words truly have. Sometimes the gravity of words is stronger than that of the Earth; after all, Cassidy’s words were what pulled the earrings off, not the weight of the beads. If words can defy gravity, it’s my mission to use them to lift up others until no force can pull them down.