— Leo Buscaglia
Motivational Speaker (1924-1998)
Nothing carries the same power as a kind word, especially when it comes from the heart.
It can lift the spirit.
It can bring a ray of shine to an otherwise sunless day.
It can return a bounce to the staggered step.
It can lighten a trying moment.
It can raise hope among those who are feeling hopeless.
It can help to heal a hurt.
It can restore a semblance of faith to those whose resolve has been stricken.
It can relax eyes strained with ache and fatigue.
It can breathe new life.
It can recharge personal conviction.
It can straighten a wayward journey.
And at the very least, it can affix a warm smile to an otherwise hardened face grown cold.
Not exactly appropriate fodder for an aging newspaper editor whose mannerisms have been compared to the ways of a curmudgeon. I was tagged with that label for the first time twenty-something years ago during my first stint with this newspaper. My good-natured assailant was a close friend and former sports editor, the late Jim Bell, whose newsroom desk sat adjacent to mine.
Jim’s comment was said in jest, but I remember it to this day because the curmudgeon word was used again in my direction just a few days ago by a co-editor. Again, the judgment was rendered in fun but it did point to a fundamental need shared by all human beings — the longing for an occasional kind word.
Just a little compliment here and there.
Perhaps a recognition of effort.
In the newspaper world, reporters — and editors — occasionally make other people mad. Rarely is it intended. More times than not, a reader’s anger is fueled by a writer’s honest mistake, an oversight, an errant fact or a misplaced or misspelled name.
Complaints in this business come in waves.
A reporter or editor can go months without raising a reader’s ire. Then, as if a wicked witch has waved her evil magic wand, complaints can come tumbling through the chute like home-dug potatoes.
That accursed wand cast its doomsday spell at my office door several days ago.
Some of the public criticisms originated from my own calculated, or miscalculated, judgments.
Some belonged on the plate of others.
Some were just misunderstandings.
But when you’re an editor, in the eyes of the readers it’s your fault. Case closed. Story over. Debate ended. Door slammed.
Unlike snakes, complaints don’t just travel in pairs. They bear fruit and multiply.
Late one recent afternoon I was scolded by a seething mom on the phone who was rightfully proud of her daughter’s accomplishment but was upset that the parents’ names were omitted from the news story. The next day I received a slap on the wrist from the communications director of a state agency who felt her employer had not been given a chance at fair comment in our coverage of an event. A short time later a local company complained about information we had published.
Each had a legitimate opinion and all had their right to express themselves.
And then there’s our feedback-driven Facebook page where anybody can say anything. No rules. Even fewer professional courtesies.
As a graduate of old-school newspapering, I have opinions about the new wave of reckless communications called social media. Feel free to ask me about them ... if you have a couple of hours.
About the time that a newspaperman is nearing the end of his rope and believes he can’t take another gripe, his faith is restored. All thanks to a simple kind word.
Mine came in a recent e-mail from a gracious lady who thanked me for the sensitivity I had shown toward people with disabilities in a previous column.
Suddenly the prior horde of complaints was forgotten.
And most were forgiven.
All because of one heartfelt message.
Sent by a thoughtful lady.
It’s all about positive reinforcement.
And our thirst to be appreciated.
Everyone wants it.
Everybody needs it.
So go ahead and say it.
Two of the easiest words imaginable.
Whose power is boundless.
Try it on somebody today.
And see how it makes you feel.
And about yourself.