Today, I was given the honor to write a student’s letter of recommendation. I love doing that. I love having the opportunity to help propel a person towards his/her intended or dreamed-about future. It’s absolutely invigorating.
I wrote about how this young man truly has the joy of life. I wrote about this young man’s passion for living, how he embraces the absolute fabric of life.
I read him his letter of recommendation. Not because I was looking for his approval. But because I wanted him to hear that how valued he was by another person, so that he could hold, forever, a fragment of the joy and hope that he inspires in others.
He gave me a hug.
And then asked me about my favorite quote, my favorite author. And I had to confess that I really didn’t have a “favorite.” Not because I was trying to be difficult. But because I have so many.
As I drove home, I thought and thought about what my favorite quotes would be.
When I went running in the rain, shaking thick rivulets of water out of my hair and away from my eyes, I started realizing that my favorite quotes weren’t necessarily going to be found in a book. Sure, I have favorite book quotes. Some of them are loved because they mean something to me. Some of them are because the writer was so horrible and the writing so horrible that I couldn’t help but have a wonderful laugh.
From my daughter, when she was two or three years-old: “You make my heart happy.”
My husband’s voice on the telephone: “I love you, too.”
Or when he calls me “Sweety.”
A little French boy saying that the flowers and the candles were going to protect him against the terrorists.
The French man who lost his wife in the Paris attacks who said that he would not give ISIS his hate but would share his late wife’s love with their son every day on the playground where they would play and where his son would live a life filled with freedom.
My students, when they say: “Love you, mean it!”
I John 4:18: “There is no fear in love.” I used to chant that quote to myself every time I was afraid, because if God is love, then God has no fear. And I loved God; therefore, I could have no fear. It doesn’t work all the time. But it sure does help when I can’t think of anything else.
Job 30:29 (KJV): “I am a brother to dragons and a companion to owls.” Sure, this is from the book of Job and he’s covered in boils and his family is dead and everything is horrible. But when you’re a lonely teenage girl who dreams about dragons and wants to love God but doesn’t know how to do it, this verse showed me that God loved me too.
A Parisan man: “We have the same blood. We have the same heart. There is nothing different.” He had just hugged a Syrian teenager who was holding a sign saying that he wasn’t a terrorist, that he loved the people of France. The people of Paris are refusing to capitulate to the broken-glass boundaries that ISIS would use to surround and then destroy the world. The people of Paris are refusing to see that all Muslims are the same shape and from the same mold as the terrorists who have wreaked havoc around the world.
Paul Klee: “A line is a dot that went for a walk.” It’s related to art…but I keep on thinking about periods forming lines and curlicues of letters and then lines become letters which connect together to form sentences which are then linked together and become sentences and paragraphs and stanzas.
I love the sound of laughter on a good day.
I need the sound of laughter on a bad day.
My mother, just before she started performing CPR on my father: “Bring him back!” she commanded God. And then, “I will glorify the king of kings. I will glorify the lamb.” And then “Lee, pray!”
My father: “Heavenly father…..” and a loose string of garbled, guttural sounds because my father’s brain couldn’t synchronize his tongue, lips, and larynx so that his words were intelligible. But God heard my father. And God let me keep my father. And my father kept his faith and then took on more faith and has shown me over and over why faith is such a powerful thing.
I love the sound of crickets, the sound of the little peeper frogs in the pond across the street.
I love Michelle Pfeiffer’s line in Ladyhawke: “I am sorrow” because I was a lonely, awkward teenager and this line made me realize that I wasn’t the only person who felt this.
The butterfly in Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn: “They passed down all the roads long ago and the red bull ran close behind them and covered their footprints.” Which turned out to come from Deuteronomy which was a personal sign to me that God wanted me to be a writer (fantasy writer at the time).
Poetry by Mary Oliver.
Poetry by Emilia Phillips.
Poetry by Robert Okaji.
I love the crisp sound of snowflakes landing on top of one another, and then the crisp sound of walking through and then walking on top of snow.
I love the sound of shuffling my feet through dried autumn leaves.
Khaled Hosseini in The Kite Runner and when Hassan says, “For you a thousand times over.” Which is then echoed by Amir. God, I love that line. And I am so honored when a student made a kite for me with the epigraph “For you, a thousand shoes over.”
My husband proposing to me: “So, what do you say?”
My students asking me, “What do you think?” And me responding, “What do you think?” And then they go through the labyrinth of their minds, follow and tease out the strings of their thoughts and ideas until they arrive at what they conclude is the right answer. And then they prove it with the literature. And then they show me how the literature proves their argument. And then they look at me with anxiety and I get to say, “I agree with you.” And their eyes illuminate with joy and relief.
Sheldon Cooper in a ball pit: “Bazinga!”
Today, I met a former university student at Starbucks for our weekly tutoring session. I noticed that his shoulders were drooped, his face tense with anxiety. I asked him a couple of times if he was all right.
“I’m worried about what’s been happening in Paris.”
I felt the world fall a little at that moment. Because this man had experienced 9/11 personally, had been in New York City, at the World Trade Center during the terrorist attacks. He was a police officer and was helping people evacuate. He was there. And now he is a speaker in my classes every year. And every year, he gave my favorite quote about how 9/11 taught him not to “sweat the small stuff.”
For nearly fourteen years, this lovely gentleman has been healing from 9/11. And, today, I saw him filled with anxiety.
I will not capitulate to the fears that are nagging at the edges of my mind. I will not surrender to the imaginary terrorists that hang out in my subconscious. I have been in more danger walking across the Wal Mart parking lot than I think I will ever experience from a terrorist. Growing up, I dealt with bomb scares. I dealt with a bombing at the Oktoberfest the day after I had been there. I dealt with the threats of Gaddafi threatening to blow American passenger jets out of the sky (and my parents still put us on American airplanes to fly to Europe for our yearly vacation).
I will not fear. I will not fear. “For perfect love casts out fear.” I will not fear because today is just a dot that will go for a walk and turn in to a line. And that line will become a mark on my calendar. And I will live. I will live. I will never stop living.