23 November – Kate Napier, St Peter’s Church

Use with care: side effects are likely

‘I’ll be thinking of you.’ How often have you said that? How often has someone said it to you? Perhaps ahead of root canal work, an exam, an interview, a funeral? What can it possibly mean? And yet we say it, and we mean it – that is, we say it with intention, the intention to support, help, be there when we cannot be there. We may say it lightly. But we also say it when the stakes are high, when pain, defeat, failure, grief are risked.

And when we hear it? It makes a difference. Just knowing that this person knows what you will be going through, and cares, even a little, that you should go through it well, makes the going through easier. Almost regardless of outcome, perhaps. That you are supported, that there are hands at your back even though you’re in the chair, at the desk, in front of the panel, alone.

‘I’ll be thinking of you’. Just five words. Maybe a more sensible question than ‘what does it mean?’ is What do they do? It’s not rational. How can speaking five words possibly, actually make a difference to anything? And yet it does.

We know the power of words to harm, demoralise, exclude, discriminate. The ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me’ saying really doesn’t hold good. True, the damage done may not be visible, but that doesn’t make it less real. We can do real damage with words. And we can use the power of words to heal, support, care. ‘I’ll be thinking of you’, spoken from the heart, with intention, is a gift, a prayer, a blessing. The sweet words leave you and they land sweetly, changing the field of trepidation, fear, worry in the one you speak them to, making it that much easier to endure. Words are powerful. We do well when we use them with care.