“Of all the weapons of destruction that man could invent, the most terrible-and the most powerful-was the word. Daggers and spears left traces of blood; arrows could be seen at a distance. Poisons were detected in the end and avoided. But the word managed to destroy without leaving clues.” – Paulo Coelho
In April, we started the 2015 CFH Luncheon by asking guests to write down one word they would use to describe homelessness. As the event came to a close, we made this same request of those in attendance. Our goal for the CFH Luncheon was not only to provide current facts and statistics about homelessness but also to share a heartfelt message about the realities of life for those men who are homeless. This picture represents the before and after words. The larger the word, the more often it was repeated.
Take a minute and think about what word you would use to describe homelessness. Where on the above word cloud does it fit? Why that word? What about your current knowledge of homelessness led to your choice of that word.
Why does the language we use to describe homelessness matter? Language, whether we are reading something or speaking, reflects our understanding of reality. Calling someone lazy, hopeless, or unstable makes it easier to dismiss that person. Fear, cold, lonely, despair, hungry, alone – all of these words represent a world without hope.
Changing the word changes the conversation. Hope, human, help, love, involved – these words represent a world where one person can make a difference in the life of a person who is homeless.
“Words! What power they hold. Once they have rooted in your psyche, it is difficult to escape them. Words can shape the future of a child and destroy the existence of an adult.
Words are powerful. Be careful how you use them because once you have pronounced them, you cannot remove the scar they leave behind.” ― Vashti Quiroz-Vega