Roy Exum: How To Say Something Kind

Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

I like to think I that I am “good on my feet,” creative and adept when it comes to saying something nice, or reaffirming, when I think it might be helpful to another soul. The other day I came across an article during my morning reading entitled, “10 Insanely Nice Things You Can Say to Anybody,” and I read every one of them. Trust me, this is important stuff in a world that increasingly needs it.

The article, written by gifted Leigh Newman who is the deputy editor of Oprah.com, was a delight and something you might expect from someone whose author’s profile reads, “She believes in making your own popcorn, embarrassing your kids by writing I LOVE YOU in red frosting on their lunch sandwiches, and owning dogs that are just way too big to fit in the bed.”

As I read each “Insanely Nice Thing” I was reminded of “The Greatest Seven Words Ever Said.” I can remember when-and-where I heard the kindest seven words I have ever known but, first, here are Leigh “Top Ten” because she has some winners:

* * *

"Take your time. I'm not in a rush." (especially in the Christmas season)

"Three different sources have confirmed that you're generous, nice to animals and funny."

"The way you eat a sandwich is so elegant"

"I saw what you did, and please don't think I'm a nut case, but it restored my faith in the human race."

"You have a genius not understood by mere mortals."

"That's awful." (to someone who has just suffered an accident or hardship).

"I love the sound of your voice."

"I am not inviting HIM to my birthday party." (to your best friend after she has just been dumped by her boyfriend)

"You bring me joy. You make me happy."

"I just can't make this decision without you."

* * *

Many years ago I invited to an editor’s meeting at Reader’s Digest and we were at this centuries-old farmhouse in Pleasantville, N.Y. The gorgeous house had been restored and had a massive table big enough for 13 or 14 people. After the plates were pushed away, we began talking about the art of writing positive stories, tales that inspire readers. Reader’s Digest is still pretty good at it and I had a wonderful time with the group.

One editor who had been at the magazine a number of years listened to us younger ones banter back and forth. He was quiet yet absorbed every word and towards the end of meeting he told me that a good read isn’t necessarily a lengthy read. He also said that the KISS rule is vital in every story: “Keep It Short and Sweet” but I always liked the alternate better, “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”

He nodded with an appropriate chuckle and said the best story he had read was “The Greatest Seven Words Ever Said.” So as we perked our ears to hear the story, he explained that, many years before, every elementary teacher in America was tasked to check each student’s ability to hear. She would take each student into the hallway, right outside on the classroom, and whisper in first one ear and then the other. This is really how it was done back when I was still in short pants.

It seems that in a third-grade class there was a smaller-than-normal girl who had a cleft palate. Not only was she embarrassed by it but, as is sometimes the case, her hearing was partially impaired in her left ear. She was mortified by the test; the last thing the delicate little girl wanted or needed was another problem.

But the teacher called her to the door and the two went into the hall. The teacher leaned to the child’s right ear and whispered quietly, “Show me three fingers.” Instantly the girl grinned and shot her hand high in the air, three fingers outstretched.

Then the teacher leaned close to the girl’s left ear and in a voice not so low the right ear would miss it she whispered seven words that the child, nor I, will ever forget: “I wish … you were my little girl.”

Say something kind to someone today, hopefully a total stranger. Something short but sweet, because there is not much that is more powerful than kind words.

royexum@aol.com


Send Your Opinions To Chattanoogan.com

We welcome your opinions at Chattanoogan.com. Email to news@chattanoogan.com . We require your real first and last name and contact information. There is no word limit, but if your article is too long you may lose your reader. Please focus more on issues than personal attacks. (click for more)

Amendment 2 Gives Judicial Branch To State’s Political Elites

Tennesseans should not be snookered by the political establishment’s power grab in Amendment 2.   The constitutional revision is a concession you are asked to give to the legal and political elites in Nashville. It is presented in a flier this week in a deceptive way as a measure that protects a right, yet really it is a surrendering of a right.  ... (click for more)

Architect/Contractor Selected By Erlanger For New Children's/Women's Hospital

HKS has been selected as the architect and McCarthy as the construction manager for a new Children’s and Women’s Hospital at the Erlanger campus on East Third Street. The Atlanta team competed against another Atlanta group for the major construction project. Erlanger officials announced Monday that $11.5 million is being set aside in a debt restructuring for the new $30 ... (click for more)

Red Bank Protestors Say Police Out Of Control

Regular city business was overshadowed at the Red Bank Commission meeting Tuesday night by citizens protesting recent police actions. Outside city hall people holding signs lined the sidewalk and, in the time set aside for residents of the city to speak, the ones that did expressed disapproval of the police procedures surrounding a traffic stop that ended in an alleged beating. ... (click for more)

State Volleyball Begins Wednesday In Murfreesboro

The ever-exciting state volleyball tournament will begin Wednesday morning in Murfreesboro with action scheduled for four different schools. The Boyd-Buchanan Lady Bucs are Chattanooga's entry in the Class A bracket while Red Bank and Signal Mountain will be competing in Class AA.  Baylor is entered in D-II Class AA. Boyd-Buchanan, 32-14, will face Loretto (31-12) in ... (click for more)

Boyd-Buchanan Defeats East Ridge 7-1 In Soccer Semi

The Boyd-Buchanan girls’ soccer team has already made history this season, but coach Todd Ledbetter’s Lady Bucs are hungry for more. After winning the school’s first district title last week, they moved a step closer to another championship with a Region 3-A/AA semifinal victory at home on Tuesday. Boyd-Buchanan, the 5-A/AA champion, defeated District 6 runner-up ... (click for more)