The most powerful weapon in the universe is deployed on a regular basis these days.
I'll get back to that statement in a moment.
I haven't written in a few days. It's been really busy at work — and tons of honey-do chores at home. The Cortez garden is crazy this year, and I am doing my best to keep it under control. I'm sure I have picked a minimum of 50 cucumbers and just as many jalapenos. So busy I have been.
I am currently involved in many conversations — conversations about race, politics and, yes, mask ordinances — conversations that have taken many directions, have been educational and have ended at times with agreeing to disagree.
It has been so humbling to be involved in so much during a time when so much is happening. I hope that I have been able to add value to some of these conversations and discussions. I have also tried to listen well during these discussions.
It is hard to listen well sometimes. It's impossible to listen well when you can't wait to be the next one to talk, so I have tried my best to hear the person who is talking.
Empathy is also valuable when talking and listening. To be empathetic to someone who may be saying something you don't necessarily agree with is hard. We tend to be mounting our rebuttal rather than listening with an empathetic ear: "Did you really hear them?"
A lot of the conversations I have been involved in lately have had a touch of emotion attached to them. Lack of empathy ... poor listening skills ... add a pinch of emotion and BOOM, you have the birth of a creature that feeds on destruction, death and division. Unfortunately, I have been in those discussions too. They never end well and most always lead to gaping wounds in one's spirit and soul.
Was that the goal when the conversation started?
So what is this weapon I started this conversation with? Well, that weapon that is on full display and being reloaded as often as humanly possible these days: words. The words that we speak to one another can cut deep. They can rip open a wound that can cause serious issues if not attended to right away. They can pierce right through your gut, causing you to double over in excruciating pain. They can produce a wound so deep that healing seems impossible.
Those same words have healing power. They can bring about an effective antibiotic that can wash away the most stubborn infection. They can lift up the most lowly spirit. They can turn that frown upside down.
I ask you: The next time you find yourself in a conversation, remember that within you lies the most powerful weapon known to mankind. The way we treat each other and the words we speak are more powerful and deadly than any virus we will ever experience in our lifetimes.
Speak life, speak encouragement, speak seeking to lift someone rather than the alternative.
You can do it. I know you can.
Keenan T. Cortez is mayor pro tem of Joplin.