Who has sight so keen and strong to follow the flight of our words?
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At the time, I was wearing rollerblades while playing skee-ball. I wasn’t much of a skater, and I wasn't much of a skee-baller either—but it wasn’t so much about the activity as it was about spending time with friends. That’s what I was really looking for. And that’s what brought me to the roller rink that evening.
After a few rounds of skee-ball, Tom rolled past and I stopped him to ask if he would be hosting another Super Bowl party. The big game between the Saints and the Colts was just around the corner, and while I don’t particularly follow sports, for me, watching the game isn't so much about the game as it is about spending time with loved ones.
“I don’t think I’ll be hosting again this year,” Tom sheepishly replied, barely making eye contact as he continued rolling away.
“No worries, Tom. I’ll catch you guys another time,” I said, before turning my eyes back to the skee-balls.
The trick is to give the ball a subtle spin on the release, while aiming for the edge of the ramp, about three fourths of the way up. If given the proper speed, the ball will bounce off the edge of the ramp and take flight to the opposite corner—right into the 100-point goal.
Well, that’s my working-theory anyway. Most of the time my aim is way off and the ball falls into the 0-point goal. And sometimes my aim is so off that it even bounces off the back wall and rolls back down the ramp! But when I’m careful, and when my aim is sure, the ball is launched into the air and lands squarely where I want it.
That usually happens only once or twice a round—just enough wins to keep me playing and feeding quarters into the machine.
After a few more rounds, Pat rolled by to say goodbye.
“Nice seeing you tonight, Jonas!” he exclaimed while sitting down to take off his rollerblades. “Will I see you at Tom’s Super Bowl party?”
I stopped playing and looked at Pat, quizzically, “I thought he wasn’t hosting again this year?”
“Oh no, he’s hosting again,” he replied as he put on his shoes, “and all the guys are going.”
It seems Pat didn’t the memo Tom didn’t want me there.
I looked Pat in the eye with a knowing smile and said, “No, I’m not going. I hope you guys have fun.”
After finishing the game, I changed into my shoes and said my goodbyes to everyone, making a point to look Tom in the eyes as I said my final “Goodbye,” then walked away.
I have never seen him since.
The Arrow & The Song
In 1845, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem called “The Arrow and the Song,” writing how he once shot an arrow and sang a song and how it was impossible to follow their flight once they left him. A long time afterwards, he later found them both in perfect condition—with the arrow in an oak tree and the song in the heart of a friend.
When the arrow leaves the bow, there’s no taking it back. Whether with careful or reckless aim, it will fall wherever it may go. So too shall our words fall where they may. Words said in anger, jealousy, or selfishness will pierce a friend’s heart—as will a kind, careful, and gentle word of encouragement. In a similar way, when we give our words a subtle spin on release to conceal our true feelings, we may never know how they will sincerely land, regardless of our intended goal.
To this day, Tom’s arrow is still unbroke, and his song still sings—yet it’s not so much a feeling of loss for the friendship that I remember most. Rather, it is the reminder of how words can travel further than we may ever know, for who has sight so keen and strong to follow the flight of words? They just may land in the heart of a friend—whether in the 100-point goal of goodwill or the 0-point goal of distrust.
What might you do to be a careful archer of your word?
Jonas Cain, M.Ed. is a storyteller, magician, musician, and facilitator of fascination on a mission to help you experience abiding joy.