Read a book, write a letter, have a conversation

We recently discovered, through a process of investigation and interrogation common to exasperated parents, that our youngest child thinks "literally" means quite the opposite: hyperbolically, exaggerating-ly, just-for-pretend, etc. He uses the word all the time. I have a hard time with misused words. If you live in my home I will correct your grammar and I'm sorry, but like doesn't, like, fix every sentence. Words require precision. Say what you mean but in a way I can understand.

Photograph 057 by Ashley Schweitzer found on minimography.com

I am a classic hypocrite in this area, though, and I am often bitten by my own snobbishness when it comes to words and how to use them. I've said and written my fair share of stupid stuff and my favorite words seem to be maybe and just and sometimes, as if I'm always trying to be convinced of something.

The words are important. Words are the vehicle for our thoughts and I would almost go so far as to say that words are the vapor that is us, our life, our being. You see why we have to choose them well? They are the lived-out essence of who we really are and we mess them up so much.

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I had a bizarre dream the other night and my words were important. I can't retell it because you know how dreams are, but in it my words meant something. I was bold. I said things that brought comfort. I pointed people to Christ because I stood alone and faced an enemy horde and protected young innocents with just my words.

But for the life of me I can't remember what I said. I can only remember what I meant and how deeply I meant it, and that might be the point.

There is a hierarchy for personal communication: spoken words, private letters and emails, online articles that we interact with (blog posts), and all the stuff we say in the gutters (ahem: Facebook). Reading great books is not necessarily considered personal communication, but some of the best conversations have been informed by books.

The higher forms of communication allow us a long form verbal ping-pong of ideas and thoughts, a medium for clarification, and most importantly, the context of a relationship, even a relationship with an author that you only know through their written words.

The gutters bring in a multitude of opinions wanting to be heard but rarely willing to listen, or edit, or acknowledge the heart behind the words. We will often talk and talk and talk until we understand what we are saying, but if we listened better, we might understand sooner.

The words we use are important because they are meant to convey what we mean—our words are part of us.

We can get better at the words.

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I am currently cultivating a few relationships via email. It used to be that these kinds of friendships were scoffed at and you kinda worried about people who had "online friends", but the internet now gives us opportunity to truly connect with those outside of our demographic, our church bubble, and our small town (in my case). I can email with someone I've never met, and I can also write to my busy friend down the road when I have time, and she can respond when she has time.

The internet can open up discussion with thoughtful people. Remember Pen Pals? Email and social media have given us the 21st century version.

I'm reaching out because I need to hear different voices and consider different thoughts, as well as stay caught up with friends, and email is the medium that is best suited to that in my current life.

Right now the world wants to spin into chaos but good books, good conversations, and letters can anchor us. We won't solve the world's problems with these discussions, but it's likely that we will gain understanding and cultivate the ability to listen better.