Sharon Randall: The gift of good words

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 25, 2022

What’s the best thing anyone ever said to you? The most helpful, or even life-changing?

Let’s exclude the obvious, “I love you.” I can’t think of better words than those. But there are lots of others we need to hear.

When someone speaks the truth, straight from the heart, we are wise to listen closely and take from it what we need.

Here are some examples:

• As a child, drying dishes with my grandmother, I dropped her favorite platter and cried, “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to break it!”

   “Child,” she said, drying my tears with her apron, “accidents happen. I know you’d never do anything intentionally wrong.”

I’ve often fallen short of those words. But they were my first lesson in forgiveness and grace.

• Once, when I was 10, feeling homely and sad, my brother Joe said, “Sister, you’re a beauty.” Joe was blind, but he was gifted at seeing things others never saw, and at saying words that needed to be heard. I still felt a bit homely, but not so sad. It’s hard to be sad if you feel loved.

• In 12th grade, praying for a way to go to college, I wrote an essay titled “My Life.” After reading it, my English teacher took me aside and said, “You’re a writer. You might not know what it means now, but you will someday. Just keep writing.”

I’ve been writing for years and still don’t know what it means. But I like to think that he knew.

• From the day she was born, people often said my little girl was beautiful. I’d smile at her and say, “Yes, she’s a beauty. She’s also smart and funny and kind.” I liked all those people a lot. Especially the ones who said she looked just like her mama.

• My mother grew up with little praise and never saw much need to give it. The best thing she ever said to me came the day I phoned to tell her I had won a national award for my column.

“For your what?” she said.

“For my column, Mama. You know, that thing I write every week for newspapers?”

“Oh,” she said, thinking, then added, “Well, honey, I guess you’re smart, aren’t you?”

• Once, when I gave a talk on writing to some third-graders, their teacher made them write thank-you notes. My favorite came from a girl who wrote, “I liked everything you said, and I especially liked your hair.”

• On another occasion, I sat on the floor with a kindergarten class and recalled a story from my childhood of how I tripped my brother (not the blind one, the one I called Monkey Boy) on a barbed wire fence and he got stitches in his leg. I told them I felt awful about it, had no idea what made me do it and was so glad my brother forgave me.

Most of them confessed they’d done bad things, too, though nothing as bad as what I did, and they’d also been forgiven.

Then a boy who’d been silent raised his hand and said, “That’s the meanest thing I ever heard. I can’t believe you did that.”

I was proud of him. He spoke the truth, straight from his heart. Truth isn’t always easy to hear, but it needs to be said.

• In the final hours of my first husband’s battle with cancer, I told a friend, “I don’t think I can do this. How can I help him and our children get through it?”

“You can,” she said. “You will. God will give you all you need.”

She always spoke the truth, straight from her heart. I had to believe her. And she was right.

Some people seem born with a gift for saying just the right thing at just the right time to make us smile, forgive ourselves  or do what we fear we can’t do.

But we don’t need to be born with that gift to make it our own and use it to help others. It doesn’t take a great chef to know when someone is starving and give them something to eat.

We can all find the words that will feed a hungry soul, as long as those words are true and spoken from the heart.

   Who needs your words today?

Sharon Randall is the author of “The World and Then Some.” She can be reached at P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley CA 93934 or