Four is the Magic Number Posted on 07 Oct 16:24

Four-letter words get such a bad rap. Yes, there are a lot of “swear words” that are incidentally four character monosyllables, enough to make us frown or wince and blindly believe that three is the magic number. But there are plenty of lovely four character monosyllable terms we might focus on instead. My neighbor around the corner proudly admitted to me that her favorite four-letter word is work. I’ve watched her closely since that potent declaration and I have to give her props, she is industrious. You won’t find a weed in even the crack of the sidewalk that lines her house, and dinner is always on the table down to the minute before six. I wonder what my neighbor thinks of the expression all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy?

Play is a great four-letter word, isn’t it? (That’s likely my kids’ favorite and can you blame them? Recess is best!) I’m pretty sure Usher’s favorite four-letter idea is “Yeah” cause it helps him get his groove on and let’s be honest, life’s too short not to dance. Like seems pretty popular thanks to facebook, instagram, and pinterest; like may just be the homecoming queen of four-letter words. There are other more unassuming choices though that we sometimes take for granted, but they are always available to us: care and give are among my very favorites. Churchill put these concepts into perspective well: “we make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” The prime minister reminds me to get a life. Care more. Give more. Be more.


I just got a Christmas letter in the mail last week. (Yes, it’s barely October.) Robert Fulghum discovered and read his Christmas cards one July, so this felt a bit normal? Not really. A woman from church sent her December letter now because she’s already lived past her doctor-imposed “expiration date.” Three months ago she was diagnosed with terminal abdominal cancer that started off as surreptitious ovarian cancer. While I’m quite stoic typically, tears rolled down my face when I read her letter suggesting time is a wonderful commodity. (I hope she gets time on her side.) Time must be her preferred four-letter word, or maybe it’s live, I’m not quite sure. Either way, she gave me an early Christmas gift in that I’ve moved both of these words up higher on my list. Time to reprioritize. Re-think.

I want to give the important four character monosyllables their due. It’s time to give it up for the non-dirty four-letter word. They’re some of the most important words we use, aren’t they? They feel important when I hear them anyway. Yesterday I got a text from my sixteen-year-old daughter. It appeared on my phone at 10:21 a.m. Her text simply said, “I love you.” There she was, sitting half-interested in one of her less rigorous or less exciting high school classes, and it occurred to her that she loved her mother? What’s better than that? Honestly, what’s better than that? When I read her text, time suspended for a delirious minute so I could revel in having this wonderful, sometimes difficult, daughter in my life. It was the best part of my day…all because she gets the power of that little, unassuming four-letter word. Thank God.