Life's Tool Box – A Guide for Parents and Educators

August 3, 2014

When Words Fail Us

Filed under: Tools for Life Posts — by Life's Toolbox @ 11:53 pm


I have found it impossible to write for weeks. Words seem both too powerful and painfully impotent. When three young Israeli boys were taken, then taken cruelly from the world, there were no words that could capture the pain, and the senseless loss. And there were no words for the unity, the outpouring of care that travelled across the airwaves and across the world to wrap the grieving parents in a hug. And there were no words for the strength and courage, grace and conviction they showed us.


Then the missiles began falling, and again words failed us. The news, slanted and simplistic, focused on images of hurt civilians, hurt because monies that could have built bunkers were used instead to construct attack tunnels, hurt because their schools, homes and neighborhoods have been made into military depots, filled with bombs and missile launchers. The images of civilian wounded so much more compelling than images of bombs safely exploded in air – the iron dome costing millions, but a testament to a government’s commitment to the safety of its people. Only on my personal Facebook feed, where likeminded friends and family share images and words, did I see the runs for shelter. I saw videos of strangers stopping on the road and covering the body of an infant with their own, or helping an elderly, all in the few seconds one has to respond to the siren, the sirens that have become too frequent and too common. And in meetings, and at Shabbos tables, we shared stories of our zero degrees of separation, how we all have someone, know someone, worry about so many someones who are in harm’s way.


And there are all the important words that do not make the news. The words of a young Israeli soldier, on his first deployment into Gaza who tells his mother that he is not comfortable with shooting. The words of peers of Naftali, Gilad and Eyal, speaking to groups in the US, saying their fellow Yeshiva students in Israel told them to tell the world we must be the opposite of what the terrorists want. They want us weak, we must be strong.


There are the words and actions from the mouths of babes. A colleague’s grandchildren who play “Siren” in the park, the pretend mommy hustling her pretend children to the shelter over and over again. A friend’s 5 year old child reassured that the souls of the boys he prayed for are now going to heaven, but worried about his children’s souls, since they are decades from being born. The words of prayer, of charity and caring, the stories that at once break our hearts and make them soar with pride.


There are the ugly words, and signs, and symbols, at demonstrations in Europe, Canada, Asia. Chilling reports out of Germany suggest that we cannot forget the power of the words Never Again and the seemingly ever- ready supply of anti-Semitism underscores why Jews everywhere feel tied to the future of Israel, and pray so deeply for her security.


Words are an important tool in my life. Through words I teach, and through words I work with patients. Why then, over these past weeks, have I felt so wordily challenged? At a social gathering recently, the talk, not surprisingly, turned to 9/11. What it felt like in those few days “after”. Where you were when you heard. Trauma hits us at a place in our hearts, minds and souls that is more primitive than words. It sits heavy on our chests and scrambles our thinking. It invades our nights, making sleep difficult, and visits us uninvited during waking hours, making concentration and work a challenge. Mostly, though, it is wordless, it is indescribable; it is a pain and worry so ever present and so deep that it is beyond language.


Finally, today, the trauma of all that has happened and is happening still with me, I decided to write. The words have not come easily. I doubt the value of each sentence. I wonder if, safe and distant, I have any right to these words. I wonder if my words are any insulation against the hurtful words I hear every day at 6 and 11. I’ve come to terms with the fact that while they may seem weak tools for the difficult tasks at hand, words are what I have. I remind myself, words of hope and faith have power. Words of care and concern shrink the distance between us. Most important, words make us human and as challenging and painful as that is these days, as unsafe as it feels in these traumatic times, we cannot abandon our humanity.


With thoughts, words and prayers for peace and safety


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