Archive for June, 2019

Two-Way Blessings

keyboard and mouse

I’ve been hovering in emotional limbo lately. Mildly depressed about navigating the summer holidays solo. Disappointed in myself for shrinking from new challenges. Bored with my routine.

On Monday I wrote across the top of my journal page: Fresh start. New ‘tude. Return to the basics. Morning devotions, lunch dates, confronting the to-do list.

I have a number of extraordinary people in my life who propel me over these bumps in the road. Most often they don’t realize what’s going on. They just happen to excel at this friendship thing. But I can’t expect even these pros to read my mind. Or my mood.

So, this morning I push myself off the couch after breakfast. (Yes, I confess to eating all my meals sprawled across the living room sofa, talking back to the television—the single girl’s version of table conversation.)

Next, I resist punching the dismiss button when the cell phone buzzes a reminder of my first self-assigned task of the day right in the middle of a really good crossword puzzle.

And then I pray. This is something I did continuously while hyperventilating my way through the worst twenty months of my life a while back. Comfortable and secure these days, I tend to recite a few formulaic lines of gratitude, then roll ahead. But this morning I focus. Dear Lord, Help me to be a blessing to someone today.

Whoosh, that lovely thought takes flight the first time somebody cuts me off in traffic. Idiot. Oops. And once my body is parked at the public library’s computer, I grumble under my breath about the irksome noise level. Oops, again.

Eventually I get lost in internet research and forget to be disgruntled. When the burka-clad young woman beside me encourages her son to keep his voice down, I smile to myself. And as I stand to leave, I am pleased when she asks, “Excuse me, but could you look at this sentence and tell me if it is too wordy?”

Seems she is applying for a job. The prospective employer has given her suggestions for improving her cover letter. Confident that I can help, I gently critique the weaknesses of the paragraph in question: passive voice; repeated terminology; unnecessary qualifiers. I suggest some cuts and we work together to tweak the word choices. Ultimately, I come up with the perfect action verb to energize her closing lines. She is delighted. I am delighted. We giggle in celebration and do a virtual high five in victory.

I wish her the best, and float out of the library feeling every bit as blessed as this person I’d been led to assist. Back in my vehicle, wrapped in wonder, I think about how a mean gesture rains harm on both parties and a giving gesture does the opposite. But if she hadn’t asked . . .

And Who orchestrated all of this? The One who does read minds and moods. The One with the power to counterbalance our “oops” moments. That One.

June 27, 2019 at 9:47 pm Leave a comment

Impact Has Lost Its Impact


I heard someone use the word affect on the 6:00 news last night. I almost fell out of my recliner. Not an easy trick.

I’d been preparing to post an R.I.P. blog piece about the sad demise of many valuable verbs, of which affect is one. Other M.I.A. action words include influence, improve, change, shape, enhance, magnify, involve, sway, disrupt, disturb. The list could go on.

The point is that all of these perfectly lovely, clearly descriptive verbs have incrementally been replaced over the past few decades by a single, often jarringly misapplied, word, the aforementioned impact.

Typing i-m-p-a-c-t into your thesaurus window on MS Word won’t yield any equivalent predicates. Impact is denoted as a noun only, equivalent to such other nouns as crash, collision, shock, bang, blow, force, contact, brunt, impression.

My personal definition carries a distinct mental image of a force-driven object colliding with a more stationary one and leaving a dent. Think fender-bender. So I checked out Merriam Webster to see if that revered old lady of references agrees with me or with common usage, then held my breath as I read:

1a : to fix firmly by or as if by packing or wedging
b : to press together
2a : to have a direct effect or impact on : impinge on
b : to strike forcefully also : to cause to strike forcefully

Here, they do allow its use as a verb. But as you can see, it’s a verb with a highly specific meaning. Like, the sort of action that might very well have a subject leaving a dent in its object.

Journalist and former NBC News correspondent Edwin Newman forewarned of a budding problem with impact back in 1974. His fascinating book, Strictly Speaking: Will America Be the Death of English?, critiques the decline and abuse of the English language in great detail.

I’ll admit that my past experience as a nursing home aide figures in to my  alertness to this particular verbal corruption; in the medical context, being impacted describes a decidedly undesirable condition. But I am mostly driven by a reverence for language. How in the world did we ever develop this bizarre compulsion to apply the term to every action which can be shown to have a result? On anything. Or anyone.

I blame the Lazy Language Lemmings in the “professional” media, following the leader in the latest Conga line of regrettable trends. But just maybe, if a few of us can raise awareness, we can stem the tide. Redirect the drift. Even make a small dent in this large problem.*

*I was tempted to close with the too-obvious, If we take notice, band together, and champion the cause, surely we can impact this situation. But then I would have had to set fire to my keyboard. And burning plastic creates such a stench.

June 11, 2019 at 4:09 pm Leave a comment

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