We never really considered the word tender until we saw artist Jenny Holzer‘s extraordinary message years ago, first on a movie marquee and then carefully etched in stone: It is in your self-interest to find a way to be very tender.
Considering that we could be tender made us realize how not-tender we often are to others AND ourselves…
…and then, we start thinking about what tender really is.
We looked it up in our treasured, compact Oxford English Dictionary bought at a flea market years ago, whose text is so small, it requires a magnifying glass to read. Definitions of tender span six columns.
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This one hit home:
6. Of things immaterial, subjects, topics, etc. Easy to be injured by tactless treatment; needing cautious or delicate handling… …kind, loving, gentle…
Then we looked for a poem that used it in a tender way, and found Emily Dickinson in need of tender care:
THIS is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me,—
The simple news that Nature told,
With tender majesty.
Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see;
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me!
How would things change if we tried being very very tender?