A Collision of Words

Sometimes the books I read back to back forge surprising connections. Each book may be enjoyable and profound on its own, but read one after the other they bring even more richness and unexpected insight.

Yesterday, in bed with the flu, I finished Forgiveness: A Gift from My Grandparents by Mark Sakamoto and then read Hope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration edited by Rose Brock. Today, I let the voices of others demonstrate this awesome collision of words. In the spirit of a found poem, here is a found post… (To experience the newfound relationship between the words, I encourage you to read it the first time through without reading the sources. With the exception of the first quotation from Forgiveness, the others are all from Hope Nation.)

“My grandparents bore witness to the worst in humanity. Yet they also managed to illuminate the finest in humanity. ” Mark Sakamoto, p. 237

“Nothing forces people to confront the humanity of others like engaging with their stories.” Jeff Zentner, p. 92

“To know a person’s story is inevitably to understand their humanity and feel a loving kinship with them, no matter how different the two of you may seem at first.” David Levithan, p. 5, 6

“…I know that stories are like fire. They give us light. They give us warmth. They burn things down so that new, green things can grow up and replace them.” Jeff Zentner, p. 96

“…what fascinated me was the way certain sentences sounded together, the way they could be arranged into symphonies, the way they awoke emotions in me that I couldn’t rationalize.” Romina Garber, p. 195

“Within the pages of those books, many of us found solace. Empowerment. Courage to dream.” Nic Stone, p. 236

“We are not being silent, we are not sitting down, we are not allowing hatred to win.” Angie Thomas, p. 67

“Feel hope, my friend, whatever that means to you. Embrace it, devour it, foster it, make it grow.” James Dashner, p. 268

“You are not alone.” Libba Bray, p. 58

“You are great. You are magnificent. You are infinitely important to this world and to the people who come across your path. You are worthy of great things. You are capable of changing as many lives as you so choose, including your own, for the better.” James Dashner, p. 267

“Be the best individual you can be.” Aisha Saeed, p. 216

“You give me hope.” Angie Thomas, p. 67

“How profound is that?” Howard Bryant, p. 181

Small Moments of Happiness

One year ago on Yonge Street, a van plowed into unsuspecting pedestrians: killing ten and injuring many others. This act of violence altered the sense of security and safety on the streets of Toronto. The family of one of the victims is attempting to counter the emotion generated by this tragedy through the donation of a piano: to counter hate with love through spontaneous moments of music, of healing, of happiness.

The piano is not new, not in perfect condition, not even in tune. And yet, perhaps this is exactly what the situation calls for: an instrument with its own past and imperfections.

When I think about tragic circumstances, I become more keenly aware of the happiness within a moment. This weekend brought many moments of happiness. Church on Easter Sunday was especially joyful with my niece by my side leaning in and mimicking my every move. Easter dinner was a busy, bustling houseful of kids and adults, never a quiet moment. A scavenger hunt sent the kids – big and little – running around the house, up and down, in and out. The patio furniture out of storage, I sat on our deck for the first time this year, reading a book and enjoying the sun. A token left at the car wash, seemingly on purpose, made the satisfying task of washing a filthy car, even more satisfying.

There are small moments of happiness within each day… but really, their size doesn’t matter at all.

Writing as Thinking

I recently gave an inservice with a focus on writing as a form of thinking. Now this is nothing new. I often think through my words on a page and encourage my students to do the same. Sometimes I know what I’m going to write about when I begin but often my writing takes me to unexpected places. The same is true for students. On many occasions I have watched students read over their freewriting and then exclaim, “I didn’t know I thought that!”

The other day while writing in my journal, I found myself thinking about – writing about – my grandma. I didn’t realize she was on my mind and then there she was in my writing. I smiled as I wrote about her passion and strength, her stubbornness and sense of humour, her fierce love for family and her playful antics. Even since her death in June of 2016, her presence in my life continues to be strong. She grounds me.

I hadn’t expected to find her within the pages of my journal that day, but her appearance was a wonderful surprise.

A Desire to Learn

One of my goals when teaching is to generate both creative energy and intellectual rigour. And really, most of our students have a desire to learn: they want to be challenged and engaged.

Last week I watched as students from difficult circumstances, students dealing with the sometimes harsh realities of life, became excited at the challenges set before them. At the end of a lesson in another school, a student asked, “I want to start this on the bus on my way home!”

Mission accomplished: students excited to learn.