At this time of the year, I cringe a great deal. I cringe at the Christmas cards consisting of too many family photographs. I cringe again because few of these carry any personal note or signature, just the implied message: “Look at how great and happy we are.” After that cringing, I suffer through the overflow of articles and newscasts looking back at the past year (name all who have died the past year) and the insufferable resolutions and advice for the coming new year ranging from a new diet to books that will change everything to ways of gaining a happier life. But while glancing at the New Year’s Day Charlotte Observer’s coverage of another local, random shooting in which an innocent, thirteen-year-old was murdered, I saw a quarter-page advertisement for a jewelry store. I cringed. Not at the ad, but at the irony of its location. I also took a cell-phone photo of it and sent it to many contacts in my cell phone.
The ad begins “resolve This Year” and then it lists 29, by my count, suggestions for all of us to do in 2020. And I think the list impressive, not necessarily because of the type of suggestions it makes, but by its language in making them. Strong verbs are used to state the imperatives we need to follow. An example such as “Deserve confidence” places all the responsibility on the person desiring the confidence of another person . Those two words tell us, in order to have the confidence of others, we must act and do in such a way that another person will be confident about us. That is, we will be trusted because we have demonstrated trust.
Another suggestion that resonates is “Forgo a grudge.” I so admire the use of that somewhat archaic word “forgo.” As any poet knows, the perfect word is, well, just right. I offer that to “forgo” is the perfect command for any of us living with a grudge. Find “forgo” in your dictionary or cell phone. Learn it, and see for yourself why it is the perfect way to deal with a heavy emotion.
Now, we are all busy in our world of convenience. Ask someone to support a good cause with a check and it likely will be given. Ask for an afternoon of labor for the same cause, and you likely will be given excuses of “I don’t have the time,” or “I’m too busy.” Our time, even with all of it that we have, is guarded. Yet, here is the suggestion, “Find the time.” No explanations of what to find the time for, just find it. Oh, the needs are only limited by my excuses. But “Find the time” for a child, your house of worship, the local library, a soup kitchen, the local center for seniors, or so many other needs. Don’t wait for the time to appear, go out and find it. Once again, the ad gives a command. No wishing or moaning, but active verbs that will give results.
“ Go to church.” Now, there it is said. Do not attend or visit or some other lesser verb. Go! Your mother may have said that to you long ago. That is strong advice but needed always and especially in our culture. You may easily substitute another word such as temple or mosque or synagogue for church. But, Go. You will feel better, and your world will be better.
In the current climate, passive verbs relieve the speaker or writer of responsibility. As a teacher for forty years, I heard too many times a whine such as, “She (a teacher) doesn’t like me”, or “That coach likes only certain athletes”, or more and more. Parents, too, spoke in the passive voice to remove any responsibility from their child or even themselves. But this ad uses the active voice and that places all the responsibility on the one doing. Examine the suggestion, “Flount envy.” Once again, the perfect verb, but not one that I would want my students to commit regarding rules. But envy? Exactly. Grow up and be responsible for yourself.
I wrote earlier that the placement of the ad is ironic. It is because the page it is on has an article about the murder of an innocent thirteen-year-old girl. She was killed by a stray bullet fired by an eighteen-year-old who was angry with someone he had argued with, and he did not heed the first suggestion: “To mend a quarrel.” Instead of mending, he used a gun to rip at something trivial. Lives torn, including his.
It is an ad unlike any I have ever read. But it is one I will read each day and follow its words. Strong words to help a weak world.