“When would you like them to come? And do you need to be present when our guys get there?” she asked me over the phone. I had already paid for one service call, but the problem had only resolved momentarily. Now it was back.

“Well, the sooner the better,” I replied. “I’ll be here all morning if someone is available. We’re having guests this evening, so I’d really like it fixed by then…”

“Well that’s not happening,” she said matter-of-factly.

I held my tongue. I remembered, now.

When I first recognized her voice on the phone, I felt myself bristling–as if subconsciously, I knew this wasn’t going to be a pleasant conversation. And now I remembered why. This woman likes to dish out the hard reality of what their business isn’t going to be able to do for you, rather than letting you down easy.

Couldn’t she have said, “Well, we’ll sure try…” or “Wow, we have a lot on the schedule; Let’s see what we can do…”? Such language imparts hope. It offers possibility. It keeps you from having to hold your tongue.

I wonder if my kids feel like this when I give it to them straight. When I resort to a disciplinary tone, even after the discipline is over. When I say (with a surliness), “Well, that’s not happening!” rather than, “Honey, let’s see how we can make that happen next time…” Why do I feel it’s my responsibility to ration out hope in realistic portions, rather than give license to hope in future possibilities?

I’m not talking about false hope. Just real hope. Because no matter what has gone wrong, there is always hope of fixing it. And when that’s what I’m dishing out to my kids, they won’t have to hold their tongues.

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