Words are funny things. We use them to help, harm, chide, motivate, comfort and embarrass one another. George Carlin fans will recall the seven words we can’t say on TV, while the rest of us can most likely cite a particular word or phrase that just makes our blood boil.
And sometimes, even the best intentions go awry and words take on a life of their own. There is some wisdom is thinking before you speak, but to be honest we’ve all said things we’ve regretted. If only life had this giant rewind button, we could erase our mistakes. But unfortunately that’s not the way it works.
And then there are folks who think they’ve said something motivational or cute or supportive, when in reality it’s insulting, degrading or just downright stupid. Two examples come to mind, both told to me this weekend.
The first example, comes from Ann, a 40-something professional who uses a power wheelchair. Ann attended a public meeting, where as she tells it, she was by far the youngest person in the room. She was also the only wheelchair-user. In an effort to make conversation, an elderly lady came over to Ann and said, “Hey, I’m crippled just like you,” followed immediately by, “Well not as *bad* as you.”
Hmmm..nice way to welcome someone to a meeting.
And then there was Bonnie’s tale. She rolled up to an ATM only to discover that the last customer left her receipt. Since the lady just walked off, Bonnie took the receipt and chased after her. “Mam, you forgot your ATM receipt,” Bonnie called out. The lady turned around and was apparently amazed to find someone rolling after her rather than walking or running. She expressed her thanks and then added, “Imagine, someone in a wheelchair doing something for me.”
She should have stopped at thank you.
Words. Sometimes they aren’t so funny.