The Power of ONE Word

Blog by Sr. Rosemary Loomis, OP

It could have been a disaster. One word would have corrupted the project. But it didn’t happen – thanks to an honest conversation.

Last year, I wrote a children’s story featuring female white squirrels and the life skills the mother teaches her daughter. All generations of these albino squirrels were called Whitey. The story itself is not flawed; however, the original title was. You see, I had called it “Lessons from Whitey.”

During a massage with Adrienne, my African-American therapist, I mentioned the story and its title. I noticed a definite change in touch when I said the word “Whitey.” I immediately told her to stop and to tell me what had just happened – and yet, I already knew because something also changed for me. She knew that the title was based on the name of the squirrels, and still found it to be very offensive to her and to all African-Americans. And so, we talked. It was an in-depth and wonderful conversation about racism.

“If you were to see this title in a bookstore or library, what would you do?” I asked.

“I wouldn’t touch it, let alone open it, and would probably ask the owner or librarian why they had the book in their children’s collection,” she answered.

Instantly I had the new title: “Lessons from Mama.“ “This title would pique my curiosity about the lessons Mama had to teach. I would definitely check it out,” she said excitedly. I gave her the manuscript to check for any other possible offensive or confusing words, and happily, she found none. It’s interesting that I had been questioning the title for several months, feeling that it might be greatly misunderstood. Adrienne confirmed my suspicions. “Lessons from Mama” was saved!

We often talk about the power of words. They can build up or tear down; they can reveal or conceal; they can offer hope or intimidate. It’s why we have to choose our words carefully. We make choices with our words – and I chose to change ONE word, which has made all the difference.

Lessons from Mama will be available from SisterRosiesBooks@oppeace.org in March 2019.

Posted in Just Reflecting

8 responses to “The Power of ONE Word

  1. Rosie,
    I’m just now seeing this. Thank you soo much for sharing this powerful and profoundly significant exchange you had. In my own ministry among the transgender community I’ve seen many times how one sentence can be the difference between someone feeling cursed for their whole life, or healed from a life of pain. How powerful are words, indeed.

  2. Thank you, Rosemary, for being responsive to the “still
    small voice” within you and the courage to be open with
    your friend. Both of you were transformed in the process.

    I read your book, “Lessons from Mama” and loved it.
    God is surely blessing you in this creative ministry.

    Peace, Brigid

  3. We need people like Adrienne to wake us up sometimes. I hope someone will do the same for the person who is about to use an offensive word and says, “Pardon my French!”
    That hurts someone like me.

  4. Rosemary you are so right and how careful one needs to be in our thinking, WORDS, and gestures to the World around us. Our witness is so important. Thank you. Your book will be read. God bless your talent.

  5. Wonderful blog, Rosie. Just finished reading “Lessons From Mama” and so it resonated with my own childhood and the many “lessons” taught to me by my own beautiful “Mama”. Thank you for your thought provocking insights and your FOUR wonderful books! Your stories are truly a gift to us and so many. I will eagerly be waiting to read book #5.

  6. Thank you for the wonderful story, Rose Mary!! You were sensitive to the situation you were in and blessed another and were blessed by her too! This is the second book in which you confront racism–your Mr Irving’s Eggs also put a different spin on how we often look at others. Thank you for the power of your words!

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