Singapore is a green city. I am not referring to the Green City Movement which includes thousands of urban areas across the world striving to reduce negative impacts on the environment, although it is #8 on the list of Green Cities. It literally is a green city. As I look out the window of our 20th floor room, I see green everywhere. Trees and plants spring up not only from the ground, but on roof tops, in outdoor balconies on the 30th floor and in every other place a tree can grow. The first Sunday in November is National Tree Planting day in Singapore. I will miss that experience by just a day or so.
Trees and greenery are like kind words. Trees provide the oxygen our bodies need to grow and survive. They help keep the air clean so that what I breathe is helpful to my body rather than harmful. They also have an affect on my spirit. In a large city, like Singapore, the trees break up the harshness of the cityscape, providing a softness to what otherwise would be a harsh, relentless mass of steel, glass and concrete.
Kind words are the trees in our interactions with others. Kindness matters. Our words will either kill or bring life. And even if our words are not intentionally hurtful, they can be like smog or vehicle emissions – unseen and yet dangerous. Words have the power to make others feel lifeless and lethargic. Without realizing it, we could be slowly killing relationships that might otherwise thrive.
In Bangkok we rode in a tuk-tuk. These are auto rickshaws with three wheels. They are extremely popular in the downtown area of Bangkok and other Asian countries. As we curled ourselves into the seat of this buggy, the driver handed us two things. First, we received the prepackaged wash cloth that is kept on ice. It is a refreshing surprise in a very hot and humid climate. Secondly, we received a face mask. The vehicle emissions in Thailand are not controlled and it is not uncommon to see many people with face masks over their nose and mouth in an attempt to keep out the pollutants.
I wonder how many people would opt for a virtual face mask to protect themselves from the impact of negativity – unseen and yet dangerous.
And it isn’t just kind words that are important. It is the well from which we draw them that makes all the difference. Jesus said we are defiled by the words that come out of our mouths. In Matthew 15:18-19 he says, “But the words you speak come from the heart–that is what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts…lying, slander. These are what defile you.”
Our heart is where our attitude is formed. It might seem like we should focus on our words, but our words come from our hearts. If our hearts are negative, our whole outlook will be negative. It is our hearts we need to change.
I have tried to do a lot of listening in the last week while traveling with this large group of people. (We are on a incentive trip with the company where my husband works. Our trip has taken us through Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia. There are about 250-300 people in our group.) I am more convinced than ever that you will find what you are looking for in others and in your surroundings.
When I was a young girl, maybe twelve or thirteen, my grandparents gave me an autograph album for Christmas. Of course, I was thrilled and immediately had my grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins write in the book. I remember my grandpa wrote this: “A wise old owl sat in an oak. The more he saw the less he spoke. The less he spoke the more he heard. Why can’t we be more like that wise old bird?”
I have never forgotten what my grandfather wrote. This last week I have made a more concerted effort to listen. What have a learned? I learned that you see what you are looking for – not only in people, but in a culture.
I learned that my words can bring life or they can bring disease. I can bless or I can curse with not only my words, but my attitudes. The condescending look, a turned up nose, impatience, suspicions, catastrophic thinking – all reflect a negative heart attitude.
I have listened to the experiences of others. Listening creates in me an awareness of my own words. I ask myself more questions. What did my tone just convey? Did I honor and build others up or am I slowly killing with toxic negativity? Am I like a green tree planted in a sea of concrete?
Here are a few wise words from Proverbs I want to add to my meditations today.
I am not always getting it right, but I haven’t given up. It is sometimes getting it wrong that helps me to see where I need to focus my attention. And as always, attempting any kind of self-improvement without the energy of the Holy Spirit is just works righteousness. The Holy Spirit is God’s presence with me today and he will lead me into all truth! It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that I greet each new day with optimism and joy.
Until next time…
May the Lord bless you and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace!