I’ve always been drawn to the power of words to bring people together, to teach, and to help others. It began with an innocent launch when I was in grade school. We lived in a six-flat building in Chicago, and it seemed to me that our neighbors needed to connect more with one another. So with two fingers, I typed my first (and last) neighborhood newspaper on my father’s typewriter at his office, ran off copies on his mimeograph machine (you can Google that dinosaur), stapled the pages together, and slipped them under the doors of our neighbors. Not wanting other residents in our neighborhood to feel left out, I also distributed them to adjacent buildings down the block. In my opinion, the headline story on page one was hot news. Too hot, apparently. My mother was embarrassed that I revealed to our little world that her old iron went up in flames when she plugged it in. My budding journalism career came to a halt.

Years later, as the advisor for my students’ school newspaper, I encouraged them to express their hopes, dreams, and some common gripes through the written word—a first time opportunity for many of them. Some lived with single working parents or grandparents; others came from large families where getting a word in was rare. But the words they wrote in their stories, articles, and poems reflected their lives and gave them a kind of power that they’d never known before.

My current nine-to-five profession as a consultant also involves words. By writing effective communications materials, I tell the stories of nonprofit organizations and their missions, with the goal of raising awareness and funds to support these worthy institutions. My after-hours and weekend career also entails words through my published short stories, essays, and books—hopefully having powerful messages.

We all can recall words that have made us feel like we were walking on clouds, as well as words that have stung. Whenever I’m asked for my opinion, advice, or comment—no matter what the message or medium is—I try to deliver it “with a kiss.” Again, the power of words can accomplish so much—sometimes in unusual, subtle, and profound ways. And very often those words will stick with us forever.

-Francine Pappadis Friedman

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