One of the things we do at our house now that we have a toddler is watch Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. It’s a cartoon on PBS based on characters developed my Fred Rogers of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood fame. In one of the episodes, Mom Tiger teaches Daniel a song about using his words. “Use your words, and say how you feel,” they sing.
Here’s the song:
In all my years of children’s ministry, there were countless times when children would express their anger or their frustration with their actions, through yelling, or Grrring, instead of their words. “Use your words,” became an often uttered phrase, a gentle reminder that, as Mom Tiger says, “When you use your words, I know how you feel.”
The events of this past week have left me searching for the right words. The shooting of two more African-American men by police officers, and then the mass shooting targeting police in Dallas left me numb. “Again?” I was asking myself all week. People are expressing their anger, frustration, and even fear through yelling, Grring, and gun violence.
I saw a post on Facebook this week that read, “Violence is a response without hope. We are people of hope.” People of hope use their words. Prayer is a good first response to such tragedy. I, however, I have been plagued with pondering, “What else can we do?” In fact, this has been part of my prayers this week.
Then, it occurred to me: “Use your words.”
We use our words to express how we feel. We can use our words to begin conversations about racism, gun violence, mental health, and all the other hard discussions that need to be had . All this means taking an active role, making conscious decisions, to create community. Bonhoeffer said, “The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.”
It is time to create community by loving each other. And one of the most powerful ways we can do that is listen to each other as we use our words to express how we feel. White and black. Citizen and police officer. Voter and politician.
Let us use our words and remember what Mom Tiger said:
“Remember, I can only help you if you use your words.”