It's a remarkable thought that if you speak English, every thing you say and every word you write is made up of just 26 letters. Each one of those letters a mere squiggle on a page yet it’s their combination that provides the power to draw people together or tear them apart.
Just 29 of them changed the course of history when Neville Chamberlain declared, “This country is at war with Germany”. It is estimated that a total of 70–85 million people perished as a result, which was about 3% of the 1940 world population (est. 2.3 billion).
Martin Luther King, in his deeply moving and passionate speech calling for justice and equality for his people, used 11 letters to frame the words that have become synonymous with his name; I have a dream. He paid the price for his activism with his life.
Those 26 letters can just as easily shape gratitude, encouragement and hope as criticism, negativity and judgement. They are keys that can open the door to apologies, reconciliations, forgiveness, truth and relationship. And sometimes it's the simplest words that mean the most; I love you, I care, thank you, I appreciate you, or can we talk about what happened? They are very small keys with enormous power.
They also give us the opportunity to share a part of ourselves, to share the world as we see it and to understand each other.
I’m currently helping a friend proof his autobiography. It's a life summed up in 281 pages, the joys and sorrows, the ups and downs and the faithfulness of God through it all. It’s liberally sprinkled with humour, woven through almost eighty years of memories, including some gut wrenching losses. A life spelled out using just 26 letters.
I imagine those words introducing future generation to a great grandfather or great, great grandfather they will never get to meet in person, but letter by letter they will come to understand not only the man, but the journey of his life, his passion for God and something of the lives he touched.
Little miss 4-year old is learning her letters. She now knows p, o, and y so she can write her name, Poppy. Every time she learns a new letter or can put it in a word, the excitement and joy on her face is beautiful to see. There’s that wonderful unashamed sense of pride that only children can exude.
A whole new world is opening up for her; discovering how to read. Before too long she will be able to read a simple story and the day will come when words will move her to tears, or make her laugh out loud. She will have discovered the magic we once knew.
Along the road to adulthood words come as naturally as breathing and we lose a sense of the miracle and power locked in them. We forget that they are a gift. But unlike other gifts, words are a gift we all receive.
I may not be able to paint a masterpiece or write a concerto, but my words are capable of changing someone’s day, or even their life.