The Power of the Written Word

In today’s world we are always telling our clients – the power of the written (and spoken) word is ginormous! So make sure that you do not write, post, tweet, say or blog anything that you can not stand behind 100%!

I recently received the below story from a close friend, Jack – Jack is a professional advocate who has dedicated his time and professional experience toward offering guidance on helping countless humans blend the generational gap. And let me just tell you, Jack formed 4Generations Institute before Facebook, Twitter and social media overtook the planet and really created generational gaps 🙂 He is a wise man.

His latest story is really a perfect example of how much of an impact the written word can have on one’s life. Please enjoy his latest story which has been adapted for sharing with his networks – of which we are proud to be a part of.

The Story
One day a high school teacher gave each student a few sheets of paper with every class member’s name listed with two spaces between each name.

She asked them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down. She suggested a word or phrase that describes the person’s best quality or characteristic. The writer’s name would not be needed, she said.  It will be totally confidential.

Many of the students looked around the room, uncomfortably at first, but then the writing started. It took the remainder of the class period to finish their assignment, and as the students left the room, each one handed in the paper.

Overnight, the teacher wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper, and listed what everyone else had said about that individual.

The next day she gave each student his or her list.  Before long, the entire class was smiling. “Really?” she heard whispered. “I never knew that I meant anything to anyone!” and, “I didn’t know others liked me so much.” was the tone of the comments. There was an expression of joy on everyone student’s face.

Few of the students ever mentioned those papers in class again. The teacher didn’t know if the students discussed the assignment after class or with their parents. The exercise had accomplished its purpose. The students were pleased with themselves and one another. That group of students moved on.

Several years later, the sad news arrived that Mark, one of the high school’s graduates who enlisted in the Marines, had been killed in combat in the Middle East. A week later, the teacher attended the funeral, along with so many classmates and others in that small community.

The church was packed. One by one those who loved the young man took a last walk by the flag-draped coffin. The teacher was the last one to pay her personal respects.

As she moved towards the back of the church, one of the attendees in uniform came up to her. “Excuse me, Ma’am,” he whispered, “were you Mark’s teacher?” She nodded: “Yes.”

Then he said: “Mark talked about you a lot. He said that you made a real difference in his life…..He mentioned your kindness and positive spirit.  I don’t know if he ever thanked you, but I’d like to do so on his behalf.”

After the funeral, most of the mourners went to a lunch gathering. Mark’s mother and father were there, and despite the volume of the people who approached to console them in their loss, the parents made a special effort to speak with his teacher.

“We want to show you something,” Mark’s father said, taking an envelop out of his jacket pocket. “They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it.”

Opening the envelop, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been folded and refolded many times. It was taped at places where the paper was torn.

The teacher knew without any doubt that the pages were the ones on which she had listed all the good things each of Mark’s classmates had said about him.

“Thank you so much for doing that,” Mark’s mother said. “As you can see, Mark treasured it.” Among the words written were “caring” “brave” “kind” “strong” and “determined to do the right thing”.

Many of Mark’s former classmates started to gather around. Carlos smiled rather sheepishly and said, “I still have my list. It’s in the top drawer of my dresser at home.”

Robert’s wife said, “Bob asked me to put his list in our wedding album.”

“I have mine too,” Marilyn said. “It’s in my diary and I consider it one of my most prized possessions.”

Then Tasha, another classmate, reached into her purse, took out her wallet and showed her worn and frayed list to the group. “I carry it with me at all times,” Tasha said and continued, “I think we all saved our list. I’ll never part with it.”

That’s when the teacher finally sat down and wept. She cried for Mark and for all his friends and loved ones who would never see him again. Yet she was also so gratified about that one period’s exercise which made such an impact in the lives of her students…and perhaps for generations to come.

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