I was watching a movie recently and I was reminded how powerful words can be. We use words to communicate many things, but I think we sometimes forget their impact. When we stop to consciously think about the words we hear and the words we use, I think we can be surprised by how carelessly we use them.
The movie is called “Temple Grandin.” It’s the story of an amazing woman’s life. Maybe no more amazing than each of our own lives, except for the fact that Temple has allowed us into her life. You see, she lives with a condition called autism that has mystified many people for a long time. Temple is able to answer our questions and give us a glimpse into what her world is like and how she functions. This has made things much easier for children living with autism today, for adults with autism who spent so much time being misunderstood, and for the animals that she also helps.
The woman is even more fascinating than the movie, but I would encourage you to watch it if you haven’t already. This is not an advertisement as much as it is a reminder. The words that we choose can hurt, but they can also heal, educate, and persuade. How we use our words can help to open someone’s mind to new ideas.
There is a line in the movie that really struck me. Just three little words that I think everyone needs to learn and remember. Temple’s mother in the movie was talking to her teacher. She was frustrated that Temple never seemed to fit in anywhere with the other children. The teacher said to her, “We know how different Temple is.” And the mother’s reply was very powerful. She said simply, “Different – not less.”
I love those three words. How powerful they can be when said together with compassion. I spend a lot of time trying to explain to others how my life with Treasure and Grace is no better or worse than my life with my other dogs. Yes, my interactions with them are different, but they are not better or worse than the others. Nor are they easier or harder. They are just different. Now I have a very simple way to explain with only three words. “Different – not less.”