I'm applying to a summer writing camp and the prompt is to write "A 300-word essay that illustrates a particular moment when words have been meaningful to you, to be uploaded with the application form". This is my response.
At first glance, words can appear to be powerless. A string of letters do not have the power to move mountains or flood cities. You cannot eat words, or build houses with words, or use them to build roads. Why, then, does humanity have such a continued obsession with the power of language? An answer came to me two years ago, when I had been going through a rough time emotionally. To cope, I turned to poetry, and at a gathering with a few of my friends, I shared one of the poems I had written. When I finished reading, I saw that one of my friends was silently weeping. I was immediately alarmed, but when I asked what was so upsetting, she said it was my poetry. She had become so overcome by the emotion in my words that she had succumbed to sobs. It was an extraordinary moment for me; I never once considered that I could make someone else cry, simply by stringing together the right words in the right order. But it was also a healing moment. Every tear she shed was one I did not have to, and every embrace I offered her was one I desperately needed myself. By pain was lessened by seeing it reflected in someone else, the burden I shouldered made just a little bit lighter. That was when I learned the true power of words. They break down the barriers of self, and unite us around common feelings. They help de-localize our pain, spread it out farther, so that it no longer becomes so pressing and powerful. From that simple experience, I realized why language is and always will be essential to the state of being human.