It was the biggest dog I had ever seen. A German shepherd with a strong sense of territorialism and no love for strangers, even little ones.
My older sister and I were walking down the road minding our own business—the business of being kids. We had walked to the lake a few houses away from my grandparents’ house and were on our way back.
That’s when Kaiser showed up. From across the street, he saw us coming and shot out into the road, growling and barking, his gigantic teeth bared.
I was terrified—we both were—and so I yelled at my sister, “Take me home, you stupid person!”
What? Ouch! I knew I shouldn't have called her stupid and had no idea why I did. But out it came in my desperation to get out of there.
Somehow we made it safely inside my grandparents' house and told our family what had happened. They laughed at my crazy, terror-stricken outburst, but neither of us thought it was funny.
It may sound strange, but that encounter with Kaiser taught me that words are powerful. I hadn’t intended to insult my sister but I did. The words flew out and could have easily lodged in her heart. Fortunately they didn't, and thank goodness she doesn’t hold a grudge.
I have learned since then that words can carry beauty or ugliness, joy or sorrow. They can build up or tear down. I try to build others up with my words. And when someone says something encouraging or helpful to me, I hold onto it like they've given me a beautiful gift. Because, really, they have.
The right words spoken at the right time hold a beauty and power all their own.
While it's true that I was afraid of Kaiser for the rest of his life, I grew up to be a dog lover who actually prefers large dogs. And several years ago, we adopted a sweet shepherd mix who’s solid black with a heart of gold. She also understands the power of words, but that’s a blog post for another day.
We see and hear the negative power of words every day. Is there someone you can build up today?
Photo courtesy of Storyblocks.