The Water Still Runs


My dad and I spent a few days in the Catskills with other family members and we spent most of the first days of our visit watching the rain. And in fact it had been raining several days before we arrived so the small streams were brimming their banks and the waterfalls were swollen with rushing waters.

And then the sun came out. Yet the small streams were still brimming their banks and the waterfalls were still swollen with rushing waters. And so it continued days later. The rain on the mountains was still feeding the tributaries and things won’t quiet down for quite some time.

I’ve lately considered that words are like water. Their effect doesn’t end when their sound stops. Words, whether positive or negative, feed the streams of our emotions and even when we hang up the phone or walk away from the internet or finish a conversation at the ballfield or supermarket, whatever was said still streams on, as so much rain coming down the mountain.

This provides with great opportunities to “water our world” in a deliberate fashion with helpful, healing, and hope-filled words which stand in contrast to the storms of disparagement and negativity that otherwise threaten to drown us. The way it works is this: start the day by considering who it is you expect to speak with (or encounter on social media). I like to take a moment to invite God into that consideration and ask, “What would be the best choice of words for the people I’m going to be engaged with this day?”

Now while we can’t fully predict the twists and turns of the conversations ahead of us, nor can we anticipate all the surprising encounters that might occur, we can get ahead of our day by anticipating who needs words of affirmation and encouragement. Actually, that’s probably everyone.

Just as we might practice an instrument or a golf swing, we can practice saying things that will having a lasting positive effect. Is it worth the effort? Stop and think for a moment about things people have said to you in the past. Which words still stream on in your brain or your heart? Do the discouraging words echo louder than the affirming ones? Or has your life been so filled with caring and encouraging words that these are the ones that drown out the sounds of the people who have less positive things to say? We can each learn about the power of words by reflecting on the rain-down effects of what we’ve heard and how they’ve affected us.

Living each day intentionally and planning which words we can use can make a difference we might never see. Just as the rain drops at the top of a mountain cannot possibly know their effect when joined together with other rain drops downstream the valley, so too we might not know the lasting effects of our positive words. But even if we don’t always see the effects, it’s important not to contribute to a drought.

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Pastor of St. Bernard's since 2013 and known for his engaging homilies and community presence, Father Ralph Sommer is also a treasured columnist for the Levittown Tribune.


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