She never knew

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 9, 2007

He was 13 and in the eighth grade and very self-conscious. He wanted straight hair and his was curly, which meant he never knew just how it would look each morn.

He wished he were taller and had more muscles and could run faster and knew what to say to girls. He was shy and introverted and bow-legged. And he seemed ripe for being picked on. And so they did.

He thought things couldn’t get much worse, but he was wrong. Sitting in class, he noticed, over a period of time, the blackboard was getting fuzzier. At football games the scoreboard was hard to read. Eventually, he had his annual eye exam and it turned out — horror of horrors — he needed glasses. Which meant a whole new set of nicknames. Plus, he’d have to show up at school with that total new look and people would stare at him and see how he looked different and — well, he just hated those glasses.

Problem was, he couldn’t see the blackboard without them. So he’d slip them on in class just long enough to record what he needed and then hide them. This didn’t work long, and eventually he just wore them all the time and endured the looks and comments.

In his mind, he was the most unattractive guy around. And he started to fashion his cocoon.

Until, one day, a most curious thing happened. While at a friend’s house, an older teenage girl said a most startling thing to him. For no apparent reason and what seemed like in all sincerity, she looked right at him and said, “I really like those glasses on you”. Then she went on with her previous conversation, as if she were simply making an observation.

He stood there digesting the comment, trying not to look as if it had affected him. But here this person —

this girl, mind you — had said she liked his glasses. And what’s more, she didn’t just like them. She liked them on him. And slowly these words attached to his skin and seeped into his pores and eventually traveled right down into that sacred place of self-perception.

And after awhile, he looked in the mirror and saw someone different. Eventually, he saw someone he could live with. Eventually, he even grew to like his glasses.

And so it is that a few words — even one sentence — spoken at just the right time —can fundamentally alter the course of another life. For some reason, we have been given the power to somehow direct the course of human lives by our mere words.

By uttering sounds we can make or break human hearts.

By speaking syllables we can resurrect the imagination or crucify the dream. By verbalizing our thoughts we can inspire to the heavens or demolish to the grave. And to the perceptive eye these opportunities — like daisies in the spring — arise around us, awaiting our commentary.

Perhaps you’re wondering how I knew so much about that young lad. It wasn’t hard. For he was me. And that girl? She never did know just how much those words meant to me.

But even though I’m 39 years late, I think I’ll call today and let her know.

Rex alphin is a farmer, businessman and contributing columnist for The Tidewater News. His e-mail address is