An important reminder: Words still can hurt

Have you ever been called something horrible? Maybe it is something other people don’t think is horrible but for you, it went straight to the heart and squeezed until it hurt.

I’ve been called names – and when I was younger and my skin hadn’t thickened up enough and I thought the people calling me things were actually worth my time – it really hurt.

But I’m not perfect. I don’t pretend to be, either. I’ve called plenty of people names and things that I guarantee have hurt them. And for what reason? To feel better about myself? Superior?

Today was an important day – as it is every year on March 5. That’s the day when we are asked, as human beings with hearts and souls and minds of our own, to think about the words we use about and to others.

It’s Spread the Word to End the Word awareness day. And that word is the r-word.

You know the one I’m talking about. You might be the most accepting and nonjudgmental and loving person and still use that word. Because you don’t use it about an actual person, it seems OK. But why use it at all?

I used it. For a long time. Never about a person with a disability, but as a way to cut someone else down. I would say they were acting that way, being that. Or something was so that because it was stupid.

Hurts to think about because I know better. I don’t use it anymore – or any others like it. Words like the f word, that’s used in a derogatory way to describe gay men.

Spread the Word to End the Word is a cause championed by Special Olympics, an organization that’s been close to my heart for some time now. Because many of those athletes and other HUMAN BEINGS have had that word used against and about them because they were a little bit different than somebody else.

Want to know how it feels? Read this article by John Franklin Stephens, an athlete with Down Syndrome who is the Special Olympics Global Messenger, who asks you to come join him “on the side of the good guys.”

Stephens says in the article, “At worst, [that word] is aimed directly at me as a way to label me as an outcast — a thing, not a person. I am not stupid. I am not a loser. I am not a thing. I am a person.”

So many people these days still don’t stop and think before they speak. This is just another reminder to do just that. And everyone will feel better in the end.

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