Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Kind Birds

She gathered her children  out into the backyard and showed them the lumpy, old pillows. She had ransacked her local Goodwill the weekend before trying to find them. They smelled musty, were stained and seemed a bit putrid but the kids hardly seemed to notice.

She handed them out and said "Now pound on each other!" She smiled encouragingly, "Have at it!" Her son's incredulous face and her daughter's blank stare made her giggle. "Go for it," she prodded, "swing them around! You can even hit each other with them."

Slowly her son's eyes showed dawning recognition and she got a bit worried. "Wait," she said, "hit me! Pummel me first!" He lifted up the yellowed, king-sized pillow she had handed him and as he raised it into the air she saw her daughter out of the corner of her eye lift hers, too.

There were feathers everywhere. She looked skyward through the giggles and shrieks of laughter and saw the raining, white snow of floating innards. It was magical. She turned her face up to them and whispered gently  "Kind words, kind words."

"Okay team," she raised her voice, "clean up time!" Four round eye balls paused in mid-delight and looked around at the wispy piles all over the grass and at the gazillions of  feathers still in the air coming down softly. "Clean up," she sang, getting on her knees and gathering up wayward feathers in her fists, "clean up..."

"All of them, Mom?" her son asked looking worried. "Every feather?" They tried for awhile and then she took them inside and gathered them up on the couch where she had eye contact. She told them the story she had heard as a child, how those feathers were like words. Whatever you said, whatever came out of your mouth, once it was out it was hard to clean up, impossible to stuff back into your pillow or your mouth. For better or worse, those words were now swirling around outside of you.

They had gone back out with big, black garbage bags and tried to salvage what plumes were catchable. But most just floated away the harder they chased and grabbed at them, eluding them completely.

It was days later that she heard her daughter telling the story about when mom taught them how important your words were with kind birds. "Kind birds?" she had interrupted. "Yes, Mama, remember? That's what you kept saying while we were laughing? Kind birds, kind birds."

So now she thought of her words as kind birds. Every time she opened her mouth a little bird flew out and depending on what she had said it would peck at someone and hurt them, or it would alight and bring pleasure. She loved that visual and it stuck with her.

Her words could be little kind birds.

(inspired by Made to Stick, a fabulous book that is changing how I approach teaching}

"I am learning that positive words hold much more weight than negative ones. We can create beauty in someone just by speaking it." 

One of the more fascinating discussions I saw on the power of words was the movie What The Bleep Do We Know? The scene (I can't find it on youtube, unfortunately) where the molecules in several water glasses were altered based on words that were attached to them spoke profoundly to me. I don't even know if that was real or not - but I believe, and am coming more and more to understand, that our words literally create death and life in people. It's not just an analogy.

It is challenging everything in me. As a writer, teacher, mother, wife and friend.


Chelle said...

Just finished reading this through again, the second time through I read it to Annabelle.

Tears here. Sweet ones.

Thank you.

Chelle said...

This story would make the most beautiful chidren's picture book Mish. Annabelle sat wide eyed as I read it too her. Or you could make a blurb book out of it, illustrated by your own little artists...and then we could buy it up for Christmas presents...:)

Chris said...

What a beautiful story! Struck my heart and made me thankful for God's grace. Praying for kind birds here too! Thanks for sharing . ..

Hi I'm Sarah said...

Wonderful story. I looked up "Made to Stick" and was able to read the first chapter on kindle for free. Such a good read. I will join you in this adventure. Would be great to discover better ways to make the dull facts stick and more importantly to make the life giving words like "I love you" and "I am proud of you" stick. I was reminded recently in my times I spend reflecting with God that He is always kind. His words life giving. His ways full of goodness. There is no fear in him or condemnation and it is this character that is the foundation of our hope and faith where our kindness and goodness stems from. he reminded me to never use fear in any way and to always love and laugh!

PamL. said...

Loved your storytelling and twist on tile of "Kind Birds' instead of "Kind Words".

I first read a variation of this same story from a children's book written by Madonna, "Mr. Peabody's Apples" She writes that her book is based on a 300 year old story by a "teacher" named "The Baal Shem Tov", which means "Master of the Good Name". He had lived in a region of Ukraine. Very cool history behind the story!

Misha Leigh. said...

Pam L. ~ I am pretty sure a version of it was read to me as a child, too. I think from the series Grandma's Attic. I had no idea Madonna had written one, though! : )

Hannah said...

I had this story read to me as a child, too. I'm almost positive it was a picture book called "Flying Feathers."

Misha Leigh. said...

Hannah - I just hunted for it (Flying Feathers) on amazon. I wish I could find it. I wrote this one here, but know I have heard it from somewhere as a child in a different version, too. It's such a great visual!

deb said...

love love this.

I will be spending time reading through all of your posts... I feel so incredibly blessed . I can't find words for how this blog world illuminates, inspires, teaches, gifts.

hope you don't mind some here and there comment love as I let your art , your kind birds, fill my soul.

tamela said...

Beautiful! I wondered if you had proverbs 18:21 in mind when you wrote about the life and death we create with our words.

"The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit."

Misha Leigh. said...

Tamela - Absolutely. : )