noun: cliché; plural noun: clichés; noun: cliche; plural noun: cliches
- a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.
Most of the time I don't appreciate clichés. For a writer, they're the enemy: a good writer will try to say things in a fresh, vivid way, not just reach for an easy shortcut like "Suddenly the truth hit him like a ton of bricks" ... zzzzzzzzzzz.
Clichés can also be clumsy attempts to gloss over a difficult situation or to offer phony comfort without real understanding:
- "Just fake it till you make it."
- "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." (My friend Tim Fall's version of this one is better: "What doesn't kill you can still hurt quite a bit.")
There are also quite a few clichés about special needs parenting, like
- "I don't think I could do what you do." (Meant as a compliment, but there's an unspoken "And I hope I never have to try!" in there.)
- "God never gives us more than we can handle." (Well, God may not, but sometimes life does. And anyway, I don't think God doles out people's circumstances according to what He thinks they can "handle.")
Two summers ago when we were in PEI, I attended a reunion for the New Christian Singers, a group I had been in when I was in my late teens. This reunion took place when my mom was in hospital and facing her cancer diagnosis, so although the event was happening at a very challenging time, it was an amazing opportunity to catch up with people I hadn't seen in years and share stories of God's faithfulness in our lives.
On that weekend our group performed three concerts. Because of what was going on with our family I could only sing in two of them; Richard and the kids came to hear us both times. At the Saturday evening concert, he and the kids sat in the front row, and a group of older people whom I didn't recognize sat behind them.
As soon as the music started, Jonathan got excited. VERY excited. He called out "Mommy!" Throughout the concert he laughed and whooped and clapped and bounced up and down.
I was worried that the people behind them might be upset -- maybe Jonathan was spoiling the experience for them. But since I was up on stage for the entire hour, there wasn't much I could do about it.
The concert went really well. The church rang with our harmonies, and our hearts soared as we sang songs many of us hadn't sung in thirty years or more. Our group and the people who'd come to hear us all seemed to have a wonderful evening.
Afterward, when I stepped down off the stage, one of the people who'd been sitting behind Richard and the kids -- an older woman with a touch of a French accent -- came up to me.
"Was that your little boy in front of us?" she asked.
It did occur to me to say, "Oh, no, I've never met him before in my life" -- but I decided I should tell the truth and say yes.
She remarked on what a good time Jonathan seemed to be having and how well Richard had dealt with him. Then she told me she had had a handicapped son who had died many years ago -- and she said, "It's a special thing to have special children."
I didn't know this lady at all. She was from way up in the west end of the Island and had come to the concert with someone she was visiting. Those words about having special children, coming from a stranger like she was, might have ended up sounding trite or simplistic. But to me, they were a blessing. She spoke from the heart and from a depth of personal experience that our brief conversation couldn't plumb. And Jonathan's enthusiasm hadn't bothered her or ruined the concert for her. In fact, she had enjoyed it, and she made a point of letting us know. Her words helped both me and Richard at a time when we were under a lot of stress.
Proverbs 25:11 (in the Message) says, "The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry." Who knew: even a cliché can be the right word at the right time.