My one-year-old son Thomas sits behind me in the mini-van, and one of his favorite games to play is to look out the window and when he sees something he loves (mostly trucks, especially fire trucks if we are lucky enough to see one), he asks me if I love them, too. So it was one morning after dropping off an older sister at school he was in full swing:
“Daddy, do you love trucks?”
“Yes, Thomas,” I answered, “I love trucks.”
“Daddy, do you love blue trucks?”
“Yes Thomas, I love blue trucks.”
“Daddy, do you love dogs?”
“Yes Thomas, I love dogs.”
“Daddy, do you love pizza?”
“Yes Thomas, I love pizza.”
And so it went—it’s amazing the number of questions that can be packed into the one-mile drive from school to home.
And then he snuck in a zinger:
“Daddy, do you love Thomas?”
“Yes Thomas,” I said, “I love Thomas. I love my Thomas way more than trucks or dogs or pizza. I love you more than all the rest put together. And then some.”
I looked in the rear view mirror and saw his beaming smile.
It’s true—I love my Thomas—and kids like to hear it sometimes, just like I do!
Mother Theresa said: “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”
Those kind words are a gift we can give to our children. A gift that’s free to give, and precious to receive. Scripture tells us: “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” Prv 16, 24.
Not only precious, kind words can also be powerful—maybe more powerful than we really know. In her memoir Kitchen Privileges, Mary Higgins Clark recalled how when she was a little girl her mother encouraged her love of writing and always took time to hear her latest literary creation:
When I was finished . . . my mother led the applause. “Mary is very gifted,” she would announce. “Mary is going to be a successful writer when she grows up.”
Looking back . . . I am intensely grateful for that early vote of absolute confidence I received. When I started sending out short stories and getting them back by return mail, I never got discouraged. Mother’s voice always rang in my subconscious. Someday I was going to be a successful writer. I was going to make it.
That’s why, if I may, I’d like to direct a few words to parents and teachers: When a child comes to you wanting to share something he or she has written or sketched, be generous with your praise. If it’s a written piece, don’t talk about the spelling or the penmanship; look for the creativity and applaud it. The flame of inspiration needs to be encouraged. Put a glass around that small candle and protect it from discouragement or ridicule.
As it is with endeavors artistic or athletic, so it is with life. Kind words are more than just nice to hear, they can be important—especially when the rainy days come (as they always do). Scripture tells us: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue . . .” Prv 18, 21. The kind words we give our children now can help leave them with the legacy of knowing, with the “absolute confidence” Mary Higgins Clark spoke of, that they are good, valuable, loved and worthy of love, so that even in the midst of tough times they will always know the truth: that they are the intentionally hand-made and beloved creations of God, irreplaceable and precious for all eternity. That sort of life giving power is in the kind and generous words that are ours to share.
Copyright 2016 Jake Frost
About the Author
Jake Frost is an attorney, husband, and father of four grade-school aged kids. He’s the author of five books: Catholic Dad: (Mostly) Funny Stories of Faith, Family, and Fatherhood; Catholic Dad 2: More (Mostly) Funny Stories of Faith, Family, and Fatherhood; From Dust to Stars: Poems by Jake Frost; Victory! Poems by Jake Frost; and a children’s book he also illustrated called The Happy Jar.