The two most powerful words

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I glanced around my office this morning and realized that, if I have a decorating motif in this messy place, it must revolve around words. They’re everywhere.

On one shelf is a small plaque that says “My greatest blessings call me Mom.” Another one says “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

Above my computer, a square stone has these words etched into it: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” (I read that one a few thousand times when I’m on deadline and staring at a blank page.)

On another shelf is a sign that says “If at first you don’t succeed, do it like your mother told you.” (One guess on who gave me that little decorative reminder.)

snoopy be cool 300Last but definitely not least, there’s also a bright blue metal sign bearing a picture of Snoopy wearing sunglasses issuing this one simple command: “Be cool.” (That Beagle is full of sound advice.)

Maybe an office full of books and quotes isn’t surprising for someone who makes her living tapping away at a keyboard. But that’s not the reason I’m drawn to them. The reason has everything to do with power.

Whoever made up that ridiculous chant that says “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” was faking it. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t remember at least half a dozen times when words have hurt. They leave bruises on the inside, and nothing can stain our memories faster or more effectively than words. If you’ve managed to get this far in life without suffering a few internal word wounds, you’re luckier than most of us.

On the flip side is the reality that words can also work wonders. They can set us free from secrets. They can soothe shattered feelings and save or solidify a relationship. They can make us laugh, and they can build us up and help us be brave.

Most people might say the three most powerful words in the English language are “I love you.” But for me, the most powerful phrase is even shorter: “Thank you.” Because a “thank you” is born of love and shares the proof of love, and who among us doesn’t need that?

During this Thanksgiving season, I know I’ll never be able to say enough thank you’s to equal the blessings in my life, but I sure hope I’m never too lazy to try. When I see my family and friends, what I hope they feel most from me is my deep appreciation for them and the love that fuels it.

And this final thank you is for you, dear readers. About 20 years ago, I started writing this weekly newspaper column. At the time, I was a 22-year-old word nerd fresh out of college with an English degree and no idea what to do with it.

And now – roughly 1,000 columns and more than 700,000 words later – I’m a 42-year-old word nerd still sorting out her life by using her words. I’m so incredibly humbled and grateful for the readers who let me share these words and also for those of you who have written or emailed me a few kind words of your own. Those notes are among my most special treasures, and they continue to encourage me when I need it most.

From my heart to yours, Happy Thanksgiving. And most of all, thank you.

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