Sometimes the perfect word of encouragement happens because nearly any word will do.

Today’s schedule involved getting up very early to take Suzie to work and then taking Nessie to the veterinarian, probably for surgery. All because I was up early trying to write a blog post and was too focused to see her snag a dish towel off the counter.

I was trying to do something good and did something bad. I was trying to help someone and hurt my puppy. It feels awful.

Now she is suffering pain for my mistake.

Do you think there’s a perfect word that will make everything all better? Nope. I can’t explain it to her. I’ll be kicking myself for days.

Words don’t mean much to a puppy, or a baby, or a person in pain or grief. Some things are just beyond words.

But the intent behind the words, the emotion, the love, all these things matter. The fact that you are there and say something soothing and supportive is the important thing. That matters.

I remember people visiting the hospital during Suzie’s various ordeals but I don’t recall their words first. I recall their faces. I recall the fact that they were praying more than the specific words of the prayer. I recall that they cared.

That’s what I’m hoping with Nessie.

My kids can’t recall their earliest years when we fed and changed them. They don’t remember the ear infections, aches and pains that we nursed them through. They don’t recall the tears we dried.

But they do know that we love them – and always have. That’s worth a lot. More than the few times we managed to be there and say exactly the right thing at just the right time. That didn’t happen often.

But there was a lot of heartbreak, pain, disappointment and suffering over the years. That did happen. I can’t tell you what we said. Sometimes we said exactly the wrong thing at the worst time.

But we were there to try.

The funny thing is, I often found myself repeating things my parents said to me. And I have since heard my grown children repeat some of the same advice to their friends.

Maybe the perfect words of encouragement happen more than we think. Or maybe the words don’t matter as much as we think. Maybe the encouragement happens in between the words when we are merely being there.

So, be there. Say the best words you can find. Say them with the best love you can give. Even if you feel inadequate. Even if the words sound dumb.

Be there. And say them anyway.


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Photo: Talking Business by Bryan Gosline via Flickr