There are many humorous anecdotes of folks miscommunicating. One of the funniest ones to come to my attention recently is about a fellow AARP-eligible shopper.
There was a bit of confusion at the grocery store yesterday morning. When I was ready to pay for my groceries, the cashier said, “strip down, facing me” in a very authoritative voice.
Making a mental note to complain to my congressman about Homeland Security running amok, I did just as she had instructed. When the hysterical shrieking and alarms finally subsided, I found out that she was referring to my credit card.
I got my groceries but was asked to shop elsewhere in the future. They need to make their instructions to us seniors a little clearer!
I laugh at that story because I have been both a perpetrator and victim of such “shortcut” speech.
Not all miscommunication springs from “shortcut” speech. Some appears to flow from “shortcut” thinking. As I painfully watched our folks in Washington toss verbal grenades over the nation’s budget crisis and debt ceiling, it seemed as if their inside-the-beltway words were either: 1) scripted where R’s and D’s play assigned parts rather than seeking to make a difference or govern, or 2) uttered so that the volume of their words far exceeded the effort of the thought that preceded them.
In this latter case, the speakers seemed to have no mental roadmap for themselves, much less one to share with others.
What could happen if thought preceded words generally, but most especially in matters of significant gravity? What might happen if we conceded that there may be wisdom beyond the sound bite? What would happen if we all anchored our words and actions in purposeful and thoughtful reflection?
As we enter a holiday season centered initially on gratitude, next on new possibilities, and finally on making those new possibilities happen, please consider the words of poet Max Ehrmann, written in 1927. A thoughtful friend brought them to my attention recently when I was tempted to speak before thinking.
Desiderata by Max Ehrmann
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.