Last Words Last

"I will never say anything that couldn't stand as the last thing I ever say." - Auschwitz survivor

Sometimes I struggle for words.

I can’t think of exactly how to state something, describe something, define something.

Other times, words just pour out of my mouth or through my fingers onto the keyboard.

Occasionally when that happens I end up wishing I could take them back.

This happens in personal relationships as well as in public life.

The reality of the 21st century is that our words can instantaneously have a far-reaching and durable life of their own.

Our words can make it around the globe in less time than it takes to log off of Facebook or Twitter.

James 3:8-10 tells us that the tongue is small but mighty. James warns us that “no one can tame the tongue – a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.”

Our words, whether well-chosen and reasoned or hasty and shot-from-the-hip, have power.

We won’t always choose the right words.

But we should still try our best and ask for forgiveness when we don’t.

Those around us won’t always choose the right words.

But we should seek to forgive and offer reconciliation when they don’t.

Today I ran across a TED talk that told the story of an Auschwitz survivor whose last words to her brother were harsh and critical. She was 15 and her brother was 8.

She survived the Holocaust.

He did not.

Her vow: “I will never say anything that couldn’t stand as the last thing I ever say.”

Powerful advice.

We never know if we will get a chance to clarify, reverse or apologize for the things we say.

Maybe we will.

Maybe we won’t.

Our last words last.

Five Minute Friday: Friend

(I participate with a group of writers in a weekly “Five Minute Friday” writing exercise. In response to a word prompt, each writer sits down for five minutes for “no extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation. Unscripted. Unedited. Real.” This is also described as a sort of writing flash mob and a great form of “free therapy” )

Five Minute Friday: Friend

Go.

I am not a dog person.

Or so I always thought.

Growing up we mostly had cats.

Fish. Guinea pigs. A hamster. Little turtles.

But never a dog.

I didn’t dislike them, but honestly never thought of having one living in my house.

Until one day in October, a year and a half ago.

Our son had been campaigning for several years.

Can we have a dog?

Can we have a dog?

Can we have a dog?

(Probably not.)

On this sunny October day we headed out to volunteer at a community event.

Waiting at that event, unbeknownst to us, was a little four month old puppy, just getting over parvo virus, saved from a shelter by a local animal rescue group and now up for adoption.

Our son found her and started walking around with her.

Can we keep her?

Can we keep her?

Can we keep her?

Can we keep her?

This time he had dozens of people who took up his cause.

You should let him keep her. Look at them together.

You should let him keep her. Look at them together.

You should let him keep her. Look at them together.

It wasn’t the plan when that day dawned, but we came home with a dog.

We came home with Tess.

I ran to Wal Mart and got a leash and a small crate and a food/water dish.

Maybe I am not a dog person.

But I am a Tess person.

She’s my friend.

Stop.

Puppy laying down and looking at camera

 

Kindergarten Registration

Mickey Mouse refrigerator clip that says "Look What I Did in School"It’s spring – and along with bunches of daffodils, robins, and ramp festivals, there is a feeling in the air of fresh starts and new beginnings.

After the winter we have had – all I can say is “hallelujah!”

Ironically, though, it was a hint of autumn that made me think of new life this week.

As I drove by our elementary school, I noticed the sign in front heralding that the next day was “Kindergarten Registration Day.”

We are just about a year away from “High School Orientation” – but, boy, do I remember that earlier rite of passage.

It’s been several years, but it seems like yesterday that we walked through the doors of that very school with our son to get him signed up for kindergarten.

Registering your child for – kindergarten!

Do we have all the right paperwork?

Our son has a July birthday, so he is one of the youngest in his class. Should we have him start kindergarten this year or wait a year?

When school starts in the fall, will he like his teacher? Will WE like his teacher?

That day of “Kindergarten Registration” had “this-is-a-big-milestone-in-our-son’s-life-and-ours” written ALL over it.

And, truth be told, it WAS a milestone.

We reached it.

We passed it by.

And we have kept on traveling – through all the years of elementary school and into middle school – past more milestones.

Each milestone brought its own questions and anxieties and excitement and opportunities.

We reached them together and with plenty of supportive family and friends to cheer us along the way.

Life’s like that.

Each new opportunity holds its own questions and its own excitement and anticipation.

But, like the fresh, crisp blank sheets of paper in your backpack on that first day of school, each opportunity holds out the promise of a fresh start and unknown adventures – all just around the next bend.

So, I welcome spring and its traditional signs of “new” – forsythia and red bud and baseball.

But I’m saving some good thoughts for those parents and kids turning their cars into the grade school parking lots over the next few weeks, walking hand in hand into the building and signing up for great adventures.

The world awaits.

Go get ‘em! 

 ***

(I am a big fan of public radio, so I am very happy to renew my affiliation with West Virginia Public Broadcasting as an essayist. This piece was my first essay for their program Inside Appalachia. You can hear the audio version here.)

 

Five Minute Friday: Glue

(I participate with a group of writers in a weekly “Five Minute Friday” writing exercise. In response to a word prompt, each writer sits down for five minutes for “no extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation. Unscripted. Unedited. Real.” This is also described as a sort of writing flash mob and a great form of “free therapy” )

Five Minute Friday: Glue

Go.

Glue holds stuff together.

Sometimes people add glitter into the glue for a little pizzazz, but really, the holding-together function is what it’s all about.

Whether it’s a fresh bottle of that good old Elmer’s glue, a glue stick, or the superhero of glues – Krazy Glue – the whole point is to hold stuff together or to put something back together that has fallen apart or broken.

In life there are certainly PEOPLE who function as glue – holding themselves, marriages, families, businesses, institutions, and communities together (and mending them when they are broken.)

Sometimes they are easy to spot. There is a little “glitter” about them and they are very, very visible as the glue that they are.

But very often, the “human-glue” that keeps us all on track, functions at a very basic, background level…barely visible…not attracting much attention.

Thank you, God, for all of the “human-glue” in this world, whether pizzazzy or plain.

Amen.

Stop.

 Three generations

 

National Library Week 2014

Image

Photo of child seated at reading table in library. Text is "Thank you, God, for libraries!!" "Celebrating National Libarary Week 2014"

Photo by Dewayne Lowther

Five Minute Friday: Paint

(I participate with a group of writers in a weekly “Five Minute Friday” writing exercise. In response to a word prompt, each writer sits down for five minutes for “no extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation. Unscripted. Unedited. Real.” This is also described as a sort of writing flash mob and a great form of “free therapy”)

Five Minute Friday: Paint

Go.

I grew up in parsonages. As a PK (Preacher’s Kid), I lived – all told – in six different parsonages before graduating high school and heading off to college.

Each time we moved, we adjusted to living in a new town, meeting new friends, becoming part of a new church family, and – after reaching school age – getting used to an all new school.

And each time we moved into a new-to-us home.

In some ways it was a challenge.

But it was also a gift.

My sisters and I learned to adapt to new circumstances and “go with the flow.”

One parsonage stands out in my mind because of the paint in the bedrooms.

The family that lived there before us had just had them repainted.

Repainted in VERY vibrant colors.

And because the rooms had just been repainted, there was no way we were going to ask the church to paint them again.

So we learned to adapt.

One room had deeply-dark blue walls and green shag carpet.

One room had pink walls and red curtains.

Another had neon lime green walls and blue curtains.

As it turns out, that last room was the smallest of the three…and my favorite.

It was tiny, but its two small square-ish windows were placed along the corner of the room. It made me feel like I was in the catbird’s seat, looking out over the neighborhood.

It also had the door that led up to the attic and a little unfinished crawl space.

I can guarantee those paint colors are not the ones we would have chosen…but as time has passed, it turns out they have made for some colorful memories.

Stop.

Moving van in front of parsonage

Skyline

 View of Chicago Skyline

The bus hummed along the interstate accompanied by the buzzy murmuring of a couple dozen middle school students and their chaperones.

We had traveled all night from West Virginia, “sleeping” on the way, ready for a three day Chicago exploration.

It had been daylight for several hours, but scenery along interstates tends to be somewhat monotonous.

Many still dozed or checked their phones or played video games – ignoring the world outside the bus windows.

For those of us looking, there came a moment of recognition.

There – along the horizon – was the skyline of Chicago.

We knew we had arrived at our destination.

But seeing the skyline of a city, no matter how recognizable, is not the same as seeing the city.

Only as we started to experience the layout of the streets, explore the many museums, listen to the “gangster” tour guide fill us in on Chicago history, eat hot dogs at the White Sox game or tap our toes as the dancers did the Charleston at the “speakeasy” did we really “see” Chicago.

We are often more likely to take the time to explore what’s behind the skylines in cities we are just visiting.

When’s the last time you bothered to “explore” your own turf, your own town, your own skyline.

Lulled into laziness, we “see” the familiar skylines around us without really “seeing” or knowing our own communities.

Maybe it’s time to “visit” our own hometowns.

We might be surprised by the diversity and beauty and history that are all around us each day.

And we don’t even have to sleep on the bus all night to get there.

View of Fairmont West Virginia skyline

Photo credit: WV Department of Commerce