Written by Thomas Wilson
I want you to remember two names and one saying when you read this.
The names are Nathaniel Anthony Ayers and Thomas Bowman Wilson, the latter is my father. The saying is “sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you”.
That saying is a lie, words hurt. All my life I have been hurt by words, from the bullies who made fun of me, to the point of making fun of the death of my father, to my life at home. My home as a child was also ugly there was much anger and hostility and hurtful words were tossed around like nothing, I learned that words are potent and strong. The key example, and this is my greatest shame, is when I told my father that I hated him, and two weeks later he died; I will never get to tell him I was sorry. But that is not why I am writing this – I am writing this to talk about the state of recovery. That wonderful point where lives change and hope is anew.
A key example of this is Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, a man whom was diagnosed with schizophernia who lived on the streets and was lost in his disorder, but through a man, Steve Lopez, helped saved himself. It was through their friendships and the words of the book “The Soloist” that my life was inspired. Steve Lopez used his words to try and save his new found friend, but the man Nathaniel ended up saving Steve Lopez through his story, they shared openly, and they trusted each other. This is where the duality of sticks and stones will never hurt comes into play. Words can save lives – writers can use words to help others, writers like myself can use them to inspire, and so many others can use words to educate about the stigmas and stereotypes in the world.
My final words to my father changed my life and left emotional scars but through my words [as a peer support specialist] I can guide others and lead them into using their words better. Yes words can hurt, but they heal. By writing out a letter of forgiveness to my father I found peace. Through my writing I have been able to touch lives in ways that would make my father proud. At my first book signing I met two women who had recently lost a family member to mental illness. They met and through my poetry they bonded, and recognized their connections. It was through my words that I was able to educate them about mental illness and was able to help others to know that their disorder was not a sin, but a part of them.
It is through those that choose to use words wisely that can change a world, [a world] that is very dark, into a world of light and hope. Nathaniel Anthony Ayers was man who lived lost on the streets, his diagnoses does not matter, his past does not matter…. the fact that he now lives healthily and has worked with NAMI to help raise awareness through the words and friendship of Steve Lopez… does. The fact that my father died does not matter, but him living on through me does. All of the memories that I have with him matter not the parting words I left him with. I have devoted my life to using words to be as effective as possible, not to hurt with words. They are the sticks and stones that break bones and leave scars when used poorly. Words are potent and powerful, they can and will impact lives and even change lives if used right or even wrong. Words are one of the powerful devices in the world today, and they will undoubtedly, if used right, alter the lives of those that hear or read them.