It was a gorgeous, sunny day on the blacktop at Hazelwood Elementary School. We were all turned outside for recess on a spring day.

On this day, something must have spurred me out of my normal shy, withdrawn self because I walked over to Jennifer Cagle and said, “What are you doing?”

“None of your beeswax,” she responded with true venom.

I walked away and tried not to cry.

***
Five years later, and we’re all on the big kids’ recess field playing kickball. I’m on second base, and the red, rubber ball line drives straight for me and smacks me square in the face before I can get my hands up.

David McKay looks at me says, “You going to cry now, cry baby.”

Of course, I did.

***
These incidents happened almost 30 years ago, and still I can remember the feeling, the words, the expressions, and the names of people who said them to me. Even now, I’m teary with the memories.

Sometimes, on Facebook and blogs, in our conversations and our books, we use words to strike out at other people – not at ideas, not at systems, not at structures – but at other people . . . people who just want to know what we’re doing or who only want to be a part of the game . . .

And always those strikes – even when delivered in those nursery “words that can never hurt” – feel like a kickball to the face.

When have words hurt you? What can we do, as writers, to wield our own words more responsibly and encourage others to do the same?