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Monday, January 16, 2006

Choose Your Words Well

A certain good woman one day said something that hurt her best friend
of many years. She regretted it immediately, and would have done
anything to have taken the words back. But they were said, impulsively, in a
moment of thoughtlessness, and as close as she and her friend were, she
didn't consider the effects of her words before hand. What she said
hurt the friend so much that this good woman was herself hurt for the pain
she caused.

In her effort to undo what she had done, she went to an older, wiser
woman in the village. Explaining her situation, and asked for advice. The
older woman listened patiently in an effort to determine just how
sincere the younger woman was, how far she was willing to go to correct the
situation.

She explained that sometimes, in order put things back in order, great
efforts must be made. She then asked: "Just what would you be willing
to do, to repair the harm done?" The answer was heartfelt. "Anything."
Listening to her, the older woman, sensed the younger woman's distress,
and knew she must help her. She also knew she could never alleviate her
pain by living her life for her, but she could teach, if the younger
woman would first listen, and then learn. She knew the outcome would
depend solely on the character of the younger woman.

She said, "There are two things needed to do to make amends. The first
of the two is extremely difficult. Tonight, take your best feather
pillows, and open a small hole in each one. Then, before the sun rises, you
must put a single feather on the doorstep of each house in town. When
you are through, come back to me. If you've done the first thing
completely, I'll tell you the second."

The young woman hurried home to prepare for her chore, even though the
pillows were very dear to her, very expensive. All night long she
labored alone in the cold. She went from doorstep to doorstep, taking care
not to overlook a single house. Her fingers were frozen, the wind was so
sharp it caused her eyes to water, but she ran on, through the darkened
streets, thankful there was something she could do to put things back
the way they once were. Finally, as the sky was getting light, she
placed the last feather on the steps of the last house.

Just as the sun rose, she returned to the older woman. She was
exhausted, but relieved that her efforts would be rewarded. "My pillows are
empty. I placed a feather on the doorstep of each home."

Now, said the wise woman, "Go back and refill your pillows.
Then everything will be as it was before."

The young woman was stunned. "You know that's impossible! The wind blew
away each feather as fast as I placed them on the doorsteps!! You
didn't say I had to get them back!!
If this is the second requirement, then things will never be the same."

"That's true", said the older woman.

"Never forget. Each of your words is like a feather in the wind. Once
spoken, no amount of effort, regardless how heartfelt or sincere, can
ever return them to your mouth. Choose your words well, and guard them
most of all in the presence of those you love."

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