Words, Will and Ways

Professor Sue Black, the forensic anthropologist, was the guest on “The Life Scientific” (Radio 4) this week. Aside from her excellent taste in music, what she shared was fascinating. She had grown up in a remote Scottish village where her Grandmother had sown seeds of possibility deep in her psyche. Granny had consistently called Sue her, “Varsity Girl” – instilling the idea of going to University.

At school, Sue spent some time gaining experience as a laboratory assistant and had enthusiastically declared to her biology teacher that this was what she wanted to do with her life. Her teacher was a refined man and so shocked her into a change of vision by uncharacteristically swearing at her – saying that she shouldn’t be so (expletive) stupid – she was going to go to University! He recognised her talent, and shoved her firmly in the right direction!

Two influential members of the cast of Sue’s life drama had said the right ‘magic’ words at the right time, nudging the course of her development in the right direction for her. Positive words have power.

Of course, in her heart, Sue agreed with this direction – she was in alignment with it. In fact, she had a very unhappy time at one school and used her will-power to knuckle down to study so that she could qualify for a more appropriate academy. As another demonstration of her will-power, later, she withheld some of the truth about her University funding so that her parents wouldn’t bear the financial burden of seeing her through college. She worked her way through herself. Clearly, Sue is a ‘driven’ personality.

But what touched me most was how she dealt with grief. Her Grandmother smoked over 40 per day and eventually paid the price. As she lay there dying, she told Sue not to worry because she wasn’t “going away”. She said that any time Sue needed her, she’d be at her shoulder to watch over her and guide her. Sue shared on the programme that although she had Christian values, she was not religious and had never had a spooky experience – but that this thought had comforted her throughout life and had influenced her behaviours.

Grief is a difficult subject, but one that should not be avoided. I finished listening to the programme wondering how I might be the messenger of good words into the lives of others – sowing the seeds of possibility. How might I nudge them forward towards bolder choices in life when I could see potential that they hadn’t fully recognised? And I considered how I might be a comfort to my loved ones as Grandmother’s wisdom had sustained Sue years after her passing. It was a moving experience that has empowered resolve in my life to be a more positive influence on those around me.

[After reviewing this, I wondered if there was value in a new definition of “Teacher” – “one who sees potential in others that they have not fully recognised or realised in themselves”?]

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