What Did You Say?


Last updated 5/25/2014 at 2:34pm

Ann didn’t have the money to buy a nice gift for Joe for his birthday so Ann gave her husband a rock. It wasn’t a pretty rock or an unusual rock, it was just a smooth, round rock she’d picked up in her yard. On one side of the rock she’d used a marking pen to write “Always” and on the other side of the rock she’d written “Never.”

“I’m giving you two words for your birthday, always and never,” she said. “I’ll always be here for you, I’ll always love you, I’ll always be faithful, I’ll always stand by you, I’ll always listen to you and always believe in you. Never means I’ll never lie to you, I’ll never stop loving you, you’ll never have to face anything in life alone, and I’ll never leave you.”

Over the years that followed the young couple became more prosperous and Ann could give Joe expensive gifts. The other gifts she gave him came and went, clothing she gave him wore out, tools broke, things were put in closets or in boxes and forgotten. The one gift that remained was the rock.  He kept the rock on his bookshelf for twenty-seven years. When Ann died, Joe placed the rock on her grave and said, “I’ll always be grateful for our life together and I’ll never stop loving you.”

It was just a rock with two words written on it,  but to Joe, it was the most valuable gift Ann had ever given him.

If you could only write two words on a rock to give to someone, what would you write? Courage? Hope? Peace? Happiness? Love? It’s become popular for brides and grooms to write their own wedding vows. There is a lot of pressure to say the perfect thing, after all, this is the biggest day of their lives and they are surrounded by family and friends so at a recent wedding when it was the bride’s turn to read the vows she’d written she pulled three pages of written notes out of her bouquet and began reading the long list of all the reasons she loved the groom. She also had a page filled with promises that she would be a good wife.

When it was the groom’s turn to read his vows, he reached into his pocket and realized he’d left his written vows at home. He took her hands in his and said three words, “Always only you.”

The bride burst into tears. Most of the people in the church started crying. In those three words he had melted the hearts of everyone at the wedding. No one will remember the vows the bride read but no one will forget the groom saying “Always only you.”

What is the best compliment you’ve ever had? It was probably something simple, it might have been less than ten words but maybe it made you feel good for weeks or months or years.

My friend Julie worked as a checker in a grocery store for years. She said it was a boring job just moving groceries across the scanner and putting the food into bags and she felt invisible. She said one day she realized the customers must feel the same way, maybe they felt they were invisible. She made it a goal to compliment at least ten customers a day telling them they had a nice smile, or a pretty blouse

or a cute baby. If men were wearing ball caps with the name of a sports team she’d ask them how their team was doing. She said after that day she would smile and make eye contact with every customer to let them know they weren’t invisible, that she saw them and they mattered. People began smiling back and regular customers started calling her by her name. She said it did her heart good and made her

work lighter.

I know a 93 year old man who said no one had ever told him they loved him one time in his life. He said his parents never told him they loved him, his wife had never said it and he’d had one daughter and she’d never said it. He said he wished one time in his life someone had said, “I love you.” I asked him if he’d ever told anyone he loved them and he said, “No, I was afraid. I was waiting for someone else to say it first because I was afraid if I said it first and they didn’t say it back that I’d be humiliated and then I’d know for sure they didn’t love me. As long as I didn’t say it, I couldn’t be rejected and as long as they didn’t say they didn’t love me I could pretend that they did.” He looked at me and said, “Please don’t say you love me, you’d only be doing it to be kind and it is too late now.”

As parents and as grandparents, it’s so important to say encouraging, inspirational, loving words to the children in our lives. They will remember our words, they’ll remember what we say and they’ll remember what we don’t say. Children need praise and compliments and we should not be stingy with loving words.

As we get older and have had thousands of experiences, it is difficult not to want to share them with people. The older we get, the more we want to talk and the less people want to listen to us.

We don’t have to talk a lot, we don’t even have to be wise or say something brilliant, we just need to say something that matters, something as simple as “Always” and “Never”.


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