Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Word Origin: c.1300, from Old French corage, from V.L. *coraticum, from L. cor "heart," which remains a common metaphor for inner strength.

Over coffee this morning, a friend shared with me that her word for 2011 is courage.  She went right on to say that she wasn't feeling at all courageous, but was instead discouraged.  I offered two thoughts: 1) that perhaps the courage was not supposed to come from her, but to her and 2) that the word might be less scary if seen as a promise, an offering, an invitation instead of a command.  This has been my own experience with my word for the year: unfurl.

As we ended our conversation and headed our separate ways, she mentioned a blog post of mine she'd read a while back.  She didn't know it, but that little comment offered me encouragement.  Because I started today thinking of abandoning this blog.  Not just leaving it to rest for a while, but removing it from viewing.  Disassembling it altogether.  At the thought of no more WordGirl, I did not hear a, "No! Don't do that!"  Perhaps you wonder why I would expect to hear voices in my head?  I'm reading a book where the main character hears Adonai (his favorite name for God) tell him "No!" several times when he is about to make a mistake or commit an offense.  I took the resultant silence as affirmation that perhaps this blog had run its course.

And then my friend offered me an encouragement, when she was feeling discouraged.

I came home to two messages - one from an acquaintance, one from a friend - both encouraging me about my blog.  Three offerings so quickly together?  Frankly, it made me cry.  Because I was not - am not - feeling courageous.  I am instead feeling like I am knee deep in a word drought, yet this felt as clear as Adonai saying No to Gurion.  How to go on with no words?

I think the key is in the origin of the word courage.  It's from several older words, all of them linked to the word heart.  Isn't that beautiful?  How did I not see that before?  I've been to the Sacre-Coeur, yet never connected the French word to my English one.  So when we are courageous, our hearts are full.  When we encourage, we are filling the hearts of others.  When we discourage, we are robbing the hearts of others.

I saw this linguistic lesson put into action this afternoon.  Tuesdays are busy - this one even busier than most.  We walked in the door from picking A up at tutorial and had 15 minutes before we needed to leave to take A to dance.  I said to all three girls as we walked in the door, "You each have a stack of clothes on the sofa.  Please put them away.  B, the dishes in the sink need to be put in the dishwasher."  This was met with some grumbling, mainly from B.

Somewhat annoyed, I went downstairs to collect the other laundry from the dryer.  And on the way, I realized why B was grumbling.  Talk about robbing the heart of another.  Who wouldn't be discouraged to spend all day at school and be greeted at the door with chores?  I apologized for my first words in the door being about the dishes.  "That was the second thing you said," she said quietly. 

"The second?

"Yes, first you told me to put my clothes away."  Eyes full, heart hurting at the ease with which I discourage my child, I offered to let her read for a few minutes before tackling the chore.

These words that are dry beneath my fingertips, under my tongue, in my head - they are seeds.  Maybe they are drying up because I am not using them carefully enough.  Am I planting encouragement or discouragement?  Because until I am planting encouragement, I don't think I can expect to reap courage.

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