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Words Matter

By Andrew Bouchard, Grade 11
For those of you who don’t know, last spring I fought a bear. He was big, but being the absolute unit that I am, he was only able to leave a small mark on my left cheek. For those of you who do know, that’s not how it went at all. I passed out, falling on the corner of a cabinet… at the dentist.

I was thinking about this and realized it was one of the most significant things that happened to me in 2018. However, to me, a scar is something much bigger than simply a physical mark left by an incident. To me, scars are left by everyday encounters and experiences, which eventually shape the person we turn out to be.

Using the theory that everyday encounters leave marks on people, shouldn’t we adapt our behaviour to influence others the best way possible? I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by family, friends and classmates who have helped me grow in a positive way, many of which are here today. One example that has stuck with me during my time at Stanstead College happened around this time last year. I was having a conversation with someone, someone I didn’t know very well, and they said I was a good hockey player. I thought, “Wow, that’s cool. That’s something I haven’t heard before.” Was it true? Of course not. Was it nice? Very. It always feels good when you hear something like that from someone other than your mom.

The point is, it was said out of good will. While they may or may not remember having said it, words and actions can impact people for a long time afterwards. Here we are a year later and I still remember those kind words.

Let’s take another example, this time of a small child in a grocery store with his/her mother. The child is carrying a milk bottle and drops it, shattering it all over the ground. In example 1, the mother says, “You stupid child, why would you do that?” In example 2, the mother says, “That is a very careless thing you did.” Now, imagine if these disciplinary attitudes are consistent throughout this kid’s childhood. Which scenario will allow the child to grow up to have better self-esteem and more self-confidence, the one who was called stupid or the one who’s action was called careless? Most likely the child in scenario 2. This example remains true through our teenage years and into adulthood: how you choose to treat others will leave a mark on them. At any moment, in any situation, to anyone (not necessarily someone close to us), we must be at our best. Countless accounts of people’s lives changing simply from a kind gesture are proof that every small action matters.

But how do you react when you are faced with adversity? The fact of the matter is, you will be knocked down by events, words and actions throughout the course of your life. To me, there is only one option: to persevere and continue pushing towards a goal, a dream, a better tomorrow. When you let something get to you, get under your skin, and let it get into your mind, then the emotional scars left on you can afflict lasting damage.

In the coming days, weeks, months, and hopefully throughout your entire life, be aware that just saying something that you consider insignificant can make a big difference in someone’s world, either positively or negatively. How you treat others says a lot about you and your character. Take an extra second before you speak or act and decide what mark or scar you will leave on people surrounding you.