letter to the editor

To The Editor, 

Words.

You matter. I am proud of you. You are beautiful. I am here for you. I care.

It is important and right and fair for people to know they are valued, that someone cares about them, and someone is watching out for them. And with a simple combination of words, when spoken authentically, and with sincere intent, words have the power to touch a person’s heart and mind like no material item ever could. But we are reluctant and uncomfortable to freely articulate the very words which denote the important sentiments of value, care, and appreciation for another.

Why is it that we hold back speaking powerful statements that could change a day, a year, or the trajectory of a lifetime for another? 

Does the existence of invisible boundaries, set by confused social norms, suggest we shouldn’t say aloud the words that we know have the power to uplift and validate another person’s contribution to humanity?

Could it be we feel spoken affections, assurances, and compliments might demonstrate to others our own weaknesses or vulnerabilities? 

Or is this hesitancy to use supportive words more often based in the assumption that our actions alone are enough to reflect our admiration, respect, and care for another person? 

Thank you. Stay strong. We care. We appreciate you.

Today we are faced with the sad, frightening, and grim realities brought on by a deadly pandemic. Committed healthcare workers and first responders across our nation and throughout the world are working long shifts, with little resource, while risking their lives to help people they have never met before. Illness and death surround them and leave them physically and emotionally drained. With few options to physically offer support to overburdened healthcare workers, various hospitals and organizations across the country have suggested people send words of encouragement and thanks to the people working on the frontlines of the epidemic. Now, the people who are putting their own lives at risk to help others are sharing their gratitude and heartfelt thanks for the powerful and sustaining words sent, which helps them to carry on.

All are welcome. Come along. Join us.

A recent survey conducted by Cigna demonstrates that most Americans reported they are lonely, and these feelings of isolation further contribute to symptoms of depression and anxiety. What could we do to improve the life of someone that is lonesome? Clearly, in-person contact matters to alleviate a person’s loneliness, but just a few words strung together with a genuine, open invitation can offer vital inclusion to someone who feels alone in the world.

With such communication, our words have the power to remind each of us we belong, and our presence is valued.

We’re going to get through this.

Throughout history, Americans have risen to overcome the most challenging circumstances; crises that have required sacrifice, bravery, collaboration, and ingenuity to see us through the challenging times. Overcoming extreme crisis has been accomplished under the leadership of respectful, experienced, compassionate, visionary leaders. Words have the power to generate the confidence required to move us forward even when we face life’s biggest challenges, and our leaders, time and again, have encouraged, motivated, and unified our country with inspiring words in times of need.

As our country, and the world, face a dangerous pandemic, here in North Carolina, Governor Roy Cooper’s leadership during this unprecedented time has been vitally important for the people of this state. While supporting his constituents with factual and accurate information, the decisions and actions he is taking will save lives, and his words have given the people of North Carolina the hope and faith they will find their way through this scary and extremely uncertain time. 

Listen class. This is important.

In life, some people will be fortunate enough to find themselves in the presence of a mentor or leader that has lived their life by the words they use to inspire. At North Carolina State University, Dr. Bob Patterson has spent a lifetime using the transformative power of words to teach, inspire, encourage, and connect with his students and people around the world, and he has  most authentically and compassionately put inspirational words into action. Dedicating his life to both domestic and international outreach efforts to end poverty and hunger, Dr. Patterson has spent more than fifty year’s committed to teaching students at NCSU. I am fortunate to have been a part of his Global Sustainable Human Development class this semester. His words and actions have demonstrated to us the very best example of leadership, which is driven by respectful, compassionate care and concern for the well-being of all people. Dr. Patterson’s character and actions exemplify what it means to live a purpose-driven life. In today’s world, his style of impassioned humanitarian leadership and guidance is needed.

Positive. Impactful. Words.

Living through a pandemic has already taught us valuable lessons. The sheer reality of this epidemic has magnified to us the value and fragility of life. For now, people have been asked to distance themselves socially from family members, friends, colleagues, and neighbors to limit the spread of the virus. We can’t hug a friend, or a family member living outside our home. We can’t shake the hand of a healthcare worker, first responder, or others working on the frontlines of the epidemic to thank them. But, we have, and always have had, the power of words to support and sustain our human connections. 

With the power of words, we can offer others support, care, and enhance feelings of belonging, even when we can’t be together. Living through a pandemic has undoubtedly changed us forever.

My hope is we will be less inclined to hold back when communicating appreciation and admiration for another. May we understand the power a few supportive and sincere words strung together can accomplish to sustain a person for a day, a week, or even over a lifetime. May we look to our leaders to speak factually and respectfully, while using words that unify and reassure us. May we remember a neighbor who might be lonely during this time and offer words of support and care. May we see the beauty in people, their actions, their contributions and acknowledge them with positive and uplifting words. 

And later, when we are together again, I hope we can live our lives more like Dr. Bob Patterson, challenging ourselves to live impassioned, purposeful lives, while implementing the power of kind and impactful words to guide our humanitarian efforts and actions.

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Carol J. Sullivan-Riddle is a graduate student in liberal studies.