On lists that track the most used words in the English language, the word “and” appears at #3 or #4, depending on what list you are viewing. The word has no real definition of its own, but rather is it used to introduce additional information and/or to connect other words, clauses, and sentences. This word exists solely to provide more insight and to connect. For many years, I never gave the word much thought. Obviously, I used the word liberally, but there were so many other words that seemed far juicier; words that carried cache and felt good as they rolled off my tongue. The word “and” didn’t seem to warrant much of my attention.
In the years that I have been working at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia, I have learned countless things from every staff member with whom I have served. Among those who have shared their wisdom with me is one in particular, and it is she who unearthed for me the gifts of this hidden gem of a word. I’m sure that she had been using this word with intention throughout my tenure, and I have no recollection of when I noticed, but somewhere along the way, it clicked and entered my consciousness. I realized that this little word that I had been taking for granted had a unique ability to encourage me to take in new information, to connect me to other points of view and ultimately, to allow me to hold two truths at the same time. I noticed its power to help navigate difficult conversations, and how it seemed to create space for endless possibilities. This unsung hero of words had been begging for my attention and once I noticed it, I could no longer resist it. Suddenly, it rolled off my tongue, and in using it intentionally, it felt every bit as juicy as any word I had ever uttered.
One of the things that first stood out to me about Unitarian Universalism was the way that it celebrated the notion of being curious. In reaching for the “and” even when, and especially when I think my viewpoint can’t evolve, I have, with what feels like very little effort on my part become more curious. As with anything else, it requires practice and I am still unearthing everything this little word has to offer but I am more curious about how the person across from me is feeling, I am more curious about the endless number of ideas and viewpoints that are available to me, and perhaps most of all, more curious about what other juicy words have escaped my attention.
So, next year, when the lists of most used words come out, I’ll be rooting for this undefinable, unsung hero, hidden gem of a word to crack into the top two!