Sometimes, when we don't know what to say, it's because what we want to say seems too complicated. But really, all we need are a few simple words.
I can think of at least three sentences that, nine times out of 10, will need no improvement, as long as you say them and mean them with all your heart.
First, "I'm sorry." Everybody makes mistakes. Well, maybe you don't, but I certainly do. If we say or do something that hurts someone, and we want to be forgiven, it doesn't help much to say we didn't mean to do it. (Or worse, to try explain why it's not really our fault.) Hurt is hurt. Forgiveness begins with repentance. Saying "I'm sorry" opens the door to grace.
Second, "I love you." I say or write those words countless times a day. I hope you do too. Sometimes, for someone I hold most dear (like my husband and children and grandchildren and the wonderful woman who helps me clean my house) I'll say, "I love you ALL." Why? Because all is as much as we can possibly love. Saying it is not, of course, the same as showing it. Actions do speak louder than words. But even in a whisper, the words "I love you" speak loud and clear. The world needs all the love we can give. If we love someone, we should show and tell them often.
Third, "Thanks." How many times a day do we say that? How many times do we mean it? We use it for most anything from "Thanks for passing the salt" to "Thanks for saving my life." Sometimes it needs a bit more clarification. But a simple, heartfelt "thanks" is always better than no thanks at all.
I told you all of that to tell you this. I often write about my brother. Aside from being blind and suffering from cerebral palsy, Joe is probably the only human on Earth who smokes a pipe while wearing a beanie pulled down over his nose.
I am not making that up. You'd have to see it to believe it. And I truly wish you could.
Joe lives alone, wears braces on his legs and leans on a walker to get where he wants to go. His legs are getting weaker and he has had some bad falls, but he tries not to let anything stop him.
Last week, I wrote a column to say Joe was hospitalized with covid-19. He'd been vaccinated some time ago and his doctors said it might lessen the severity of his illness. He told me not to worry, this was another "rough patch" in his life, but he would "take it one day at a time and trust the Lord" to help him.
Watching my brother face a lifetime of rough patches has helped me face a few of my own. My hope in writing that column was that reading about him and his faith might help others, too.
Imagine how I felt this week to hear from a great many readers near and far who said they were sending Joe good wishes and praying for his healing.
Then, a few days after I wrote that he was ill, Joe was released from the hospital and instructed to stay in his apartment and not go out. When I asked him why he was released, he said, "'Cause I said I wanted to go home."
He sounds better day by day. And I want to say three things:
First, I'm sorry. I wish I could do more to help my brother. But he doesn't want help from me or you. He just wants our prayers.
Second, I love him ALL. For how he makes me laugh and drives me crazy. For his faith and determination to keep walking ("as long as the Lord allows it") while pulling for the Clemson Tigers and ordering sandwiches from Jimmy John's restaurant.
Third, finally, I want to say thanks to everyone who sent Joe good wishes and prayed for him.
Thanks for being someone who hears about a hard patch in a stranger's life and is moved to help by sending kind thoughts or praying like a house on fire.
Thanks for being the love of God in this weary old world. You make it a better place. Not just for my brother, but for us all.
Sharon Randall is the author of "The World and Then Some." She can be reached at P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley CA 93924 or by email at [email protected].