Yesterday I grabbed our local paper and headed out to the backyard. Splashed across the front page was a report of the discovery of a giant hogweed in our area. I held my breath as I read of the potential harm it can inflict on those who come in contact with it.
Apparently, "severe burns can usually result in blistering and painful dermatitis. Blisters can develop into purplish or blackened scars, sometimes up to 48 hours after exposure. In some cases...eye contact can lead to temporary or possibly permanent blindness." Gulp...
We are cautioned to wear protective gear when gardening. It's an invasive weed, taking no prisoners, and will take over your garden if you're not vigilant. Uproot it at the first sign of its presence.
I dropped the paper and spent the next couple of hours in an extensive reconnaissance tour of our garden. Who knows, this giant hogweed could be lurking in the shadows, supposedly minding its own business. But, a la Day of the Triffids, it could be plotting a hostile takeover of our lovely garden. Visions of mutant hogweeds systematically cutting a swath through our community danced in my head.
Weeds are stealthy, sometimes taking on the look of the surrounding flora. I know better, though. They may masquerade as another member of the flower family, but they are poisonous plants, slowly choking the life out of a thriving garden. Just as a gardener will create diversity in a garden, in order to encourage a flourishing plant community, so she will uproot noxious uninvited guests.
Maybe I just need to understand where the weeds are coming from. After all, it's possible they don't mean any harm. In fact, it's possible my sense of humour needs a drastic retuning - a complete overhaul, perhaps? - and if I can see the funny side of their presence in my garden, we'll all get along much better. The weeds will take pity on its flowering neighbours, and therefore decide to play fair.
No, on second thought, even if they're unaware of the damage they're inflicting on the community, we know better. It's best to uproot them, and in their place plant something that will only have a positive effect on the environment.
Like the damage to a child's self-esteem when he hears the r-word repeatedly used against him. I read in a blog that "research featured in Harvard Mental Health Letter and published in The American Journal of Psychiatry looked at the damage that hostile words, and or yelling, can have on a child. They found "words are weapons that can cause lasting wounds..."
So it behooves us to protect our children from the negative, hostile elements in their lives, and plant them in a positive, loving, and supportive environment.
"Words have great power to heal or hurt." The Special Olympics reminds us "our choice of language frames how we think about others. It is time to respect and value people with intellectual disabilities. It is time to accept and welcome them as our friends and neighbours. Change the conversation...Stop using the r-word."
Instead, plant a different word in the community: Respect.