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word(s) of the day

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I was reading a book a few weeks ago which said that according to a poll in the USA, the words people most want to hear are the following (in order of importance): 1. I love you. 2. I forgive you. 3. Supper's ready.

The first one is no surprise. We all want to know we are loved, and we all doubt it. We all feel unloved or unlovable at times, probably because we most intimately know our own internal ugliness and essential unworthiness. We are all too aware of our lack of love, our lack of kindness, our lack of faithfulness, and our selfishness. If we are honest, the words, "I love you," can be unlikely. In spite of all our shortcomings, and perhaps because of them, we long to be unconditionally loved, to have kindness gifted to us, to have someone be a faithful lover and friend, and to be the recipient of unselfish acts, especially if we find it difficult to reciprocate. These words not only feed our basic human desire to belong, but give us hope that we will be able to say these meaningful words to another.

I was a bit surprised by the second phrase, "I forgive you." I would have thought, "I'm sorry," would be right up there, perhaps because I am more prone to seeing another's wrong than I am to seeing my own wrongdoing. However, we are always on both sides of that equation: we wrong others and we are wronged by others. We need to ask for forgiveness as much as we need to forgive; they are two sides of the same equation. Someone's apology is rather useless if I am not willing to forgive them. And my attempt at reconciliation is of little consequence if the other party does not wish to make things right between us.

To me, the last phrase, "Supper's ready," is the most interesting, perhaps because it seems to be a culmination of so many basic human desires and needs. These two simple words invoke a sense of family and belonging, an image of a table set with steaming corn on the cob, fresh garden peas, and a golden brown turkey (you know what I'm craving right now...). These words invite one to a gathering together at the end of a work day to eat, drink, and converse; in them we have the idea of food lovingly prepared by skilled hands and the deep ache of hunger for sustenance as well as for good company. The words call me away from whatever I am doing and wherever I might be to join with others for a feast. The words imply that all the preparations have already been done and all that is left for me to do is show up and partake. The words make me want to say, "I'm coming," and, "Thank you."  They make me want to spring to my feet and make a dash for the dining room. They put a smile on my face.

If I were to ask myself what words I most want to hear, the answers would probably change day by day. Today I would want words of inspiration and revelation because I am at a difficult spot in my writing. I would want words of reassurance that I am on the right track. I would welcome words of encouragement that speak to the most vulnerable, insecure parts of my soul. I would delight in a clever, well-told joke and heave a sigh of pleasure if someone invited me for a long walk, telling me my work was done for the day. "Good job!" would be really great words to hear, as would, "You are beautiful!" I could get used to someone saying, "I like hanging out with you," and, "Let me buy you a Chai latte." And I always like to hear an enthusiastic, "Yes," when I ask someone for help. Perhaps the most humbling sentences are ones that begin with, "You have taught me..." and the disarming phrase, "I want to be your friend." So many ways in which words can feed me, unburden me, give me a second wind, direct me, show me my error, transform me, invite me deeper into relationship, make me more present to beauty, and carry me a bit further into wholeness.

And these words, these beautiful words that I want to hear, they are also gifts I can give to those around me. Let me offer them to someone today.

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