Sunday, December 25, 2011

Rich With Words


Why do people measure blessings by how many boxes are under the Christmas tree, by how many cars are in the driveway, by the square footage of the house? I know what you’re thinking. “Why, no. I don’t do that. I am blessed because of my children, my marriage, my parents and siblings. I have friends.” Well, sure. And maybe you even add your church family and neighbors onto that, but what else? Seriously. If you lost everything you own physically tonight, what would you have left in the morning? “Oh, but that would never happen!” Well. Let’s pretend it would. Answer the question. If you lost everything you own tonight, what would you have left in the morning?

It is easy for me to wax philosophical here, to speak of kindness and compassion and respect for all humanity. I could easily spout off on love and peace and goodwill toward all. I could suggest a sunny spirit lightens our journey like nothing else possibly can, and lightens, more importantly, the journey of those around us. I could shine a light on the importance of growing the mind and growing the heart and then using all that growth to, in turn, grow the minds and hearts of those around us. I could argue that true blessings are felt, not seen, are for others, not for us, are earned, not purchased. But what would any of this mean in the concrete? How would I, personally, answer the question? If I lost everything I own tonight, what would I have left in the morning?

Yes, I would have my family. I would have my neighbors and my friends and my students and my readers, but what else?

I would have my mind. I would have the ability to think for myself, to formulate opinions and ideas and dreams of all sort. I would have all the knowledge I have gained to this point in my life, knowledge I have gained through formal means such as school and college and church, but also knowledge gained on my own, through reading and talking and experiencing and observing. I have kept my eyes open and my ears alert. I have been present in my life. I have actively participated, choosing to jump in and create, to roll up my sleeves and get messy. I would have that if I lost everything. I would have all of that.

I read as much as I breathe. If I lost everything I own tonight, I would still have left in the morning every story I have ever read, every how-to, every self help, every quote or poem or essay or passage. I would have the arduous journey of the families in The Grapes of Wrath. I would have the colorful characters in Tortilla Flats. I would have the romantic tales of Wuthering Heights and Little Women and Jane Eyre. I would have Lennie and Oliver and Scout and Gene. I would have Poe and Dickenson and Rumi and Frost. I would have Alice Walker and Anne Lamott. But I would never have Anna Karenina, as much as I would like. Tolstoy bores me, as does the Bible. I would never have either in their entirety, but I would have the first good chunk of each really, really well. I would also have a number of authors of no particular fame. Authors who have penned some of the best trashy romance you will ever read, who can spin a hot and steamy scene that leaves one blushing to no end, but desiring very, very much to be IN that hot and steamy scene. I would have authors who delve into the metaphysical, who speak of past lives and manifesting and regression therapy and twin souls. I would have still others who have created insanely clever haiku on breastfeeding, spit up, car seats, and baby poo. I would have all of these. And I would have more.

I would have every essay I have ever written, every thought ever put to page. I would have Mother’s Day letters, anniversary notes, and snippets from baby books and diaries and journals and cards. I would have grocery lists pages long, reminders of days when sleep was rare, smiles were plentiful and love was deep. I would have calendars black with ink, calendars filled with baseball and track and cross-country and lacrosse, piano and orchestra and class parties and band. I would have secret thoughts not put to page, but told instead to a friend who pinky swore to never tell. I would have words I spoke and am glad I did and others I would like so very much to take back. I would have all of these, and I would have more.

I would have every word ever uttered to me. I would have love notes scrawled with tiny hands, notes loaded with rainbows and flowers and smiles and such, packed with backward e’s and s’s and b’s and folded until such a note could not possibly be folded any further. I would have words of encouragement and promise and hope. I would have vows, vows of commitment and love and faith and respect, vows made in front of God, in front of God and Father John. I would have the student standing in front of me in tears, thanking me profusely for making a difference in her life, for showing her who she is and what she can be, for showing her that she is not a loser as her family has said, that she is beautiful and kind and capable and brave, that she has much to give and the opportunity to share. And I would have the tears I cried as she left me that day, tears of sadness and joy and of love for one who has been hurt in a way that no one ever should. I would have all of this, every word that ever came my way.

In the morning, should I lose all that I own tonight, I would be rich, rich with hugs and smiles and expressions of warmth. I would be rich, rich from a life lived hard and a life lived well, a life filled with family and friends and fabulous times. Yes, I would be rich with all of this, but mostly I would be rich with words, rich with words and the woman those words have built.

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