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He was fussing for something, his dark eyes fired with desperation. He wanted something, badly, this very moment. He’d just woken from his nap. At intervals, his lips struggled with the semblance of a word, intelligible to him, but not to his mother kneeling next to him. “But!” it sounded like; then, “Chip!” Tension mounted between them. More sounds came from pursed lips, and more fussing and jiggling his bare feet on the kitchen floor.

To break the impasse, the mother placed her fist in her opened hand, their agreed-upon gesture for help. Immediately, the toddler understood, returned the gesture, and giggled; then, ran for his Sippy cup on the chair. He needed a drink. More giggles and hugging enlarged both worlds as she watched him suck on the plastic straw. His efforts to make speech rather than point were not lost on her. He was learning.

This anecdote reveals the difficulty of acquiring words and stringing them together in meaningful sentences to get our needs met—an ongoing task between the developing child and his parents. 

Yet, language is a living exchange among peoples and demands consciousness for accuracy. With more words coined to accommodate new experiences, this ongoing task continues throughout life. More than ever, relevance in speech and the printed word is urgent.

Such is the ideal to which I hold fast, despite the jargon, around me, that passes for communication and seeds global exchanges with confusion.

Returning to heart-solitude and listening deeply for the gift of words can warm the frigid condition of our language. Real intimacy is still possible.

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