I recently met a young woman who made me think about the impact our words – as writers and speakers and human beings – have on the people around us.
I was sitting in the reception room of the South African Broadcasting Corporation, waiting for someone from the Current Affairs department to come get me for an interview.
The woman was in her mid-to- late twenties, well-dressed and looked a bit nervous. So I thought she was an interview subject for one of the shows. That is, until she mentioned she was at the studios to intercept a radio presenter who was on air.
“Is it a scheduled meeting? Does he know you’re here?” I asked. Maybe I’ve been watching too much TV, but the words “stalker” kept flashing in my mind.
“It’s a woman, not a man” the fan said with a soft smile. “And no, she doesn’t know I’m here. I’ve brought her a gift.”
I’d never heard of the presenter she was there to see, but then I don’t listen to much radio or music for that matter. Words and visuals are my thing.
But I marveled at the kind of pull the presenter has to inspire someone to get up very early on a Sunday morning, travel for whatever distances it was to bring her a gift on the off-chance that they would meet outside the studios. Then there’s the question of whether the presenter would be gracious about being waylaid after shift by a stranger and/ accept the gift…
What words or deeds inspired this kind of love? Did the presenter ever pause to wonder what portion of her radio patter touched someone to this extent? Or was she simply out there, getting on with her job and hoping that the audiences like her enough for the broadcaster to renew her contract?
As generally happens on a busy day, I soon put the fan out of my mind and got on with the business of life. Until I got home and checked my emails.
One of the emails was from a gentleman called Osborne. He reminded me that we met 15 years ago, in taxi from a Johannesburg to Nelspruit (it’s a 4 and half hour trip, so conversation with fellow-passengers was inevitable). He says I told him I’m a writer on assignment, write about family issues and his feeling was I had a passion for my craft.
“Your inspiration led me to write a silly novellete in 1995, which I’ve not yet published,” Osborne writes.
I remember the trip, although the passage of time has smudged many of the details. Most importantly, I don’t even know why my face stuck in Osborne’s mind, or what I said to him that made him take pen to paper and write the novellete.
But I’m grateful our meeting and the words we exchanged had a positive impact on his life, however small that impact may have been. I’m happy that when he saw me on TV, he took the pains to look for my contact details online and emailed me to tell me how much he appreciated that we met.
I’m also conscious that when you’re in the business of sharing words, thoughts and opinions with other people, you affect them in ways you never fully grasp. While you’re getting on with your business, writing to meet the next deadline, your words stay with the readers. And sometimes, these words change lives.
So, as a writer/speaker and human being, how are your words impacting on your readers and the people you meet?