A co-worker and I got into it recently after I flippantly shared a patron complaint. While not rude to the patron, I was rather harsh in my reporting of her thoughts to our director and my co-worker was upset. The co-worker objected to the language I used; nothing blue but the dismissive way I shared the complaint set my co-worker off. As she expressed herself, I rolled my eyes and stepped away from the disagreement; the subject was not my hill to die on, I was frustrated and felt myself getting screechy and the co-worker’s position was not about to be changed.
After the sharing the story with The Librarian, Buffy and rehashing it severalteen times in my head, I thought about what I could do differently, decided she was overreacting and went on with my life.
However, later I was listening to NPR’s Morning Edition and heard a blurb from John Kelly, the White House Chief of Staff, about undocumented immigrants and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program aka DACA. He said, “The difference between 690 and 1.8 million were the people that some would say were too afraid to sign up, others would say were too lazy to get off their asses, but they didn’t sign up. (source CNN)
Without exaggeration, my mouth dropped open and I was astounded that someone could be so callous and carefree with words. Sure, the trump White House has said the vilest, foulest things but today’s words just really resonated with me. For sure, Kelly did NOT specifically say that undocumented immigrants are “lazy asses” but his degrading language was not warranted. No matter what the reason these people had for not signing up, suddenly they are portrayed as lazy, as unwilling and the rage against them begins to fester.
Which brings me back to my co-worker. Whether or not she overreacted, *my* words matter. Whether the patron heard me or not, my response towards her complaint matters and the respect I show to her, to her thoughts and to her words needed to be better.
I had a follow-up conversation with my co-worker and I shared my realization. She also apologized for her outburst and we chatted about stuff.
In the past I have thought that words have power but today I really got it. Something clicked and I know that going forward I have the choice to misuse my words and lessen everyone involved – especially myself. Instead I can, and shall, reflect and be more careful with the words I utter.
This was further hammered home by my friend Karl. He shared Rudy Francisco’s poem, “Mercy, after Nikki Giovanni” and after reading it a few times, I had another “aha” moment. No one needs my smart ass comments or thoughts. While I think (know) that I am hilarious, sometimes I need to cool it.
Mercy, after Nikki Giovanni can be found in Rudy Francisco’s book Helium but here it is while you wait for your copy:
Be kind friends. Let’s be that good the world needs and use our words wisely.