Monthly Archives: February 2013

When words fail me

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde: A man who always had something to say and said it well. Image courtesy of Napoleon Sarony and Wikimedia Commons.

As a professional communicator, I use words to craft a message and to tailor that message to appeal to my audience. I’m lucky this way, because I can pick and choose the words I think are most suitable and play around with them until just the right note is hit.

But sometimes in my life, there have been occasions — some comic, some not — where my eloquence takes a hike and I’m rendered speechless. Years ago, my parents and I took my neighbor’s toddlers to our house in the country for a weekend trip. I was playing hide-and-seek with my neighbor’s kids while my parents were fixing dinner. The youngest, M., went out to the porch, climbed onto the sofa, hid her head (and ONLY her head) under a pillow, and hollered, “I’m hidden! Come and find me!” She was utterly oblivious to the fact that the rest of her was COMPLETELY visible.

You’ve got to love kid logic. I laughed so hard that I couldn’t speak, my legs gave out and I fell on the floor.

Another time, I was working on a web page for a local college and the person responsible for putting it up and linking it to the rest of the college’s webpage informed me out of the blue that he was leaving the area. I had no inkling. I remember this incident vividly because I understood for the first time what it means to be rendered speechless. I literally couldn’t talk for about a minute or two, I was so astonished. Weird.

As human beings and as bloggers, we use words in so many ways — to amuse, educate, comfort, entertain, inform, set limits, woo and admonish. And that’s just for starters. I wonder how many words we read, write and hear in a lifetime? Now there’s a good subject for some professionals to study.

One of my most memorable experiences involved no words at all. The day after the ’95 Oklahoma City bombing, I stood in front of a newspaper vending machine, gazing at a copy of my local paper on display inside the machine. The front page featured a photo of the Murrah Building, massively destroyed by Timothy McVeigh’s bomb. An elderly gentleman came up beside me to see what I was looking at. We stared at the photo, looked at each other and stared at the photo again. And then the elderly man shuffled away, shaking his head in disgust at what human beings are capable of doing to each other.

No words were needed. None were wanted.

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