Durham News: Opinion

What are words for? – Henry Amador-Batten

Henry Amador-Batten
Henry Amador-Batten

At the risk of aging myself I will admit that the group Missing Persons was and still is one of my favorites.

Their song “Words” asks, “What are words for when no one listens anymore?” It also asks “Do you hear me, do you care?”

I have always respected the written word, but more importantly I have come to understand just how powerful the spoken word actually is.

We live in a time where it only takes the click of a button to be inundated with information, with opinions and with words like never before and yet we also know that feelings of loneliness and isolation have never been higher in our society.

Why is this?

Could it be the words we are hearing or saying, who we say them too or what happens to us when they are heard?

Recent political figures have used the excuse that “They were just words” without accepting the power of those words.

Without fully admitting that words can be bricks that could shatter even the strongest of people.

Words can perpetuate crimes. Words against women demean them and put them in the very real danger of being attacked, raped or worse by those who hear the words and choose to take action based on what they have heard.

Words that dehumanize or belittle people of different faiths, races, colors or sexual orientations put lives at risk each and every moment of each and every day. Again, not only because of who says the words, who plants the seed, but also by where those seeds land and how healthy or unhealthy that soil may be.

I’ve recently had the opportunity to experience words in such powerful and inspirational ways.

I was asked to be a guest speaker on the first ever panel of LGBTQ parents at the 21st Annual At-Home Dads Convention that was held in Raleigh, this past October 7-9.

This convention was created for and attended by hundreds of fathers from all over the world that are seeking better words in order to make them better parents. They sit in on classes and communicate with other dads that have words to share that not only uplift these men but in turn uplift their families.

It was such a beautiful and important use of the spoken word.

Our panel was set up to give these already amazing dads some insight on what it’s like being a gay or transgender father. We discussed our differences and our sameness, we talked about our struggles both legally and day to day and we had the opportunity to create dialogue that brought our communities closer than they had been. Our words made a difference in a most positive and remarkable way.

I also recently joined our choir at Durham’s Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Although I am far from being considered a good singer, I absolutely love to sing. The first time I heard that choir I knew I wanted to join the group.

At my very first rehearsal I was amazed to hear how the right words, in the right order, sung by the right person, in the right key, seated in the right section and directed by the right individual created a sound that could bring a listener to tears. And the magical part was that my words were a part of this creation. Again, our words make a difference in a most positive and remarkable way.

Words spoken and words heard should come with the unwritten agreement that we will use that power with respect and intent, an intent to uplift and change the speaker or listener in the most significant and beneficial of ways.

We may have no control over the words we hear on a daily basis but we do have control over what we do with those words. We have control over how they change us and over how they dictate where that dialogue will take us, what space those words will create for listening, understanding, responding and for growth.

Do we choose our words wisely?

Do we defuse harmful words?

Do we consciously change the direction the words take us?

Do we completely ignore them?

Do we find a way to make sure our words make those most remarkable and positive differences?

Back to Missing Persons:

Do you hear me? Yes.

Do you care? We should.

You can reach Henry Amador-Batten at info@dadsquared.org