Meanings are in people, not in words

When I was growing up, Dad and I had a standing appointment every Saturday. This was our special time each week to spend together. We did a variety of activities on these days, but the tasks were not the main goal; communicating, laughing and working side by side as we deepened our relationship was the primary aim. I didn’t understand this at the time and, I must admit, not even until recently as I was going through the boxes of dad’s life I inherited when he passed away this past spring.

Looking through dad’s files, I realized Dad taught me the importance of building a relationship by spending time together communicating face to face. As a doctoral student at Michigan State University in the early 1960s, dad learned that words hold superficial meaning outside the context of human interaction. To truly get an inkling about what a person is saying to you, you need to listen to their words as you think about the way these words play out in the context of the speaker’s life. Meanings are in people, not in words. Dad’s words of wisdom paired with our rich relationship and shared experiences formed a foundation of understanding that, while I didn’t always agree with him, helped me to at least be able to reason out his side.

Lessons from life are passed down generation to generation. If we are lucky enough, these relationships nurture us as we grow and form a foundation which we can stand on as we become who we were meant to be. I had such a foundation.

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