Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.
- Jackson Brown, Jr.
We’ve driven into Chicago to take the boys to Shedd Aquarium, and it’s been a great day. I’ve witnessed the boys, hands pressed to cool glass, witnessing the beauty of God’s creation.
They marveled at brightly colored fish and the pale undersides of sharks. They watched a snake, thicker than Isaiah’s leg, twist around a tree. They observed lovely sea creatures, striped and waving in the water, poking upward from the sand.
“I love this place,” Gabe says when we become weary and tired and head for the door.
“Glad you had a nice day,” I say. “I did, too. But I’m ready to start the trip back home.”
Isaiah is holding my hand, and he stops in his tracks.
“We can’t leave yet,” he says. “We have to get the dolphin.”
“The dolphin?” I ask. I’m guessing he’s speaking of something he noticed as we skirted past the gift shop.
“Yes. The dolphin. You know.” His eyes are wide and his face is sincere. “The baby dolphin we get to adopt and take home because we visited today.”
I’m trying to understand what he’s talking about when I notice the other two boys’ faces. They’re coloring scarlet. I catch a glimpse just before their heads tip toward the floor.
“Guys?” Lonny asks.
The boys look up.
“We told him we could adopt a dolphin,” Samuel says.
“We were kidding,” Gabriel says. “We didn’t think he’d believe us.”
At some point during this confession, Isaiah starts to cry. He doesn’t want to. He tries to hold it in. But his heart is tender and it’s breaking, and soon there’s a rush of tears running down his cheeks.
And we’re reminded, every present member of this family, of the strength and power and potential of words.
It’s a reminder we all need. All the time. And I can be the greatest offender. Thoughtless words when I’m rushed. Sharp ones when I’m mad. Words can be used to edify. To build. To speak truth and life. Or they can be used as tools of destruction. To cut down. To discourage.
I know my boys’ character, and this sort of thing is unusual. But someone precious was hurt, just the same.
“I’m sorry, Zay,” they say, in unison. “Will you forgive me?”
I can tell, by their eyes, that the regret is sincere.
Isaiah nods and I wipe away his tears. We zip jackets and head for the doors. And we leave the aquarium without a baby dolphin.
But we’ve all learned a little something. Something to take on home.
Words need to be used carefully because they have a direct line to the heart.
Oh, be careful little mouth, what you say.
Shawnelle Eliasen and her husband Lonny have been married for twenty-five years. They have five sons and raise their bevy of boys in an old Victorian near the Illinois banks of the Mississippi River. Their sons, Logan, Grant, Samuel, Gabriel, and Isaiah, range in age from twenty-one to six with Shawnelle home teaching the youngest three.
Shawnelle has been writing for six years, contributing regularly to Guideposts magazine, Daily Guideposts devotional and other inspirational publications. She would say that life with her men moves faithfully, on fast forward. But it’s her heart’s desire, her passionate prayer, to see God’s goodness and glory in the fullness of her days. She longs to see Him in the unexpected moments, unexpected places, changing the ordinary to extraordinary and bringing quiet, sustaining grace.