For the past month I have been treated to writing prompts (#halcyonwords) which have given me time to reflect on little moments from the past. A few of them have opened up wounds and who would have known that two or three words could be so powerful? The prompts have invited me to revisit longings, losses, celebrations, community, family and travels. The role of a prompt is to encourage something to be said. The origins of the word mean, brought to light.
We are surrounded by prompts. Prompts move us to action. I notice some of my invitations are prompts trying to activate someone to take a step in a direction that will result in step forward or at a minimum a gesture of goodwill. I also notice I retreat from prompting; else it be seen as nagging. A prompt though is not harassment it does have invitational qualities and the same prompt can produce a plethora of actions depending on whose ears or place it lands. I like getting prompted, I do not like being nagged. I like being invited; I do not like being told. I like being encouraged, enabled, and emboldened. I do not like being manipulated, ambushed, or shamed into action.
When you are on stage, a production team usually includes a Prompt – the person who cues the actors if they forget their lines or miss a move they are meant to take, the prompt keeps things moving out of sight of the audience but in earshot of the actors. This role is often not needed when the production is smooth and well-rehearsed, but everyone knows they have this safety net to hold them regardless, and they can trust they will be held and helped, if need be, with no visibility to anyone outside of the stage. We all need a Prompt sometimes to tell us what words we have rehearsed over and over again that can be deployed at the right moment. Someone to quietly remind us where to situate ourselves on the stage, what words to use that we may have rehearsed a thousand times and lost in the moment when we find ourselves in the headlights.
We can be prompts for one another to remind each other that we do have the words, we do know when to sit, run or stand. We need to be prompts for each other – to invite well with a question to bring something invisible into the light. And when we find ourselves in this light, deliver our message or action with clarity and confidence for all kinds of audiences. This will take courage, practice, discipline. I need to be prompted often to go where I may not want to go. I like my prompts to come announced as prompts. Announced prompts, feel less judgemental, less risky, less acts of recalcitrant compliance. This approach helps me find my way to the light and uncover something new, and to move from invisible to visible.