Choose your words carefully

Let me set the scene…

My daughter, who is 16, and two of her friends are wandering one of the downtown districts in our local communities. To me, this is the perfect age group of patrons. They work and have very little financial obligations in their life so therefore leaving a fair amount of expendable income. I too decide to go shopping with them but wasn’t always with them. Our interests don’t match…shocking, I know. They were outside of one store that was locked, and they were looking for the hours on the door and peeking inside the window. I was walking toward them but a few store fronts away. Someone came out of the store they were peeking into and said with some disdain in her voice, “Are you looking for something?” My daughter responded, “Just the store hours.” The store employee continued, “They are right there!” pointing to a sign in the lower right of the front door and then walked away. This interaction while short, consumed the conversation between my daughter and her friends for the next two hours including ways that they could go back and tell her off or return items that one of them bought there a couple weeks earlier. One said, “It’s because I’m a Brown girl.” As an adult, I would have shrugged that interaction off and thought, “Fine. I won’t shop at your store.” But this group of teens isn’t equipped with the same set of life experiences and skills that I am. This impacted them negatively.

I tell you this story, not to poke fun of the retail world or to shame the woman who responded to our young people that way, but instead to highlight that our words have impact. Our positive words, our negative words, they can stick with someone in a way that we don’t expect or intend. Our youth in particular are watching our interactions. They see the negativity that is so prevalent on social media. They hear how we respond to them and their peers. In turn, they learn to distrust the world of adults. They learn a me vs. the world mentality instead of feeling like adults have their best interest in mind.

When you feel like you have nothing other than negativity to give, it’s time to seek a counselor. Likely the world has become too much for you, as it has for many of us. When you feel alone in your everyday life, a therapist can be a source of strength to help you move forward. And most certainly if you are feeling hopeless seek help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available at 800-273-8255 or the text line is available by texting “HOME” to 741741. We are in this together. Let’s work to demonstrate that compassion toward each other.

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