Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Use Your Words

So I'm working on my syllabi and assignments (well, not right now--right now I'm avoiding work and writing this post). I'm always excited about the narrative assignment. It is often the best writing from students and the most interesting. But sometimes it's hard to read because they disclose so many personal and painful stories that, eventually, I just felt like I couldn't handle it anymore. I want to solicit happier stories this time around, and I'm trying to figure out how to do that without literally saying, "Don't make me cry and freak me out, people!"

I also thought that maybe I would write my own response to the assignment so that they will have an example of what I want since I won't have a student example for this new assignment. I thought of a story that happened recently:

Not long after we moved into our new house, The Hubby was moving around boxes and exploring the nooks and crannies. He found a note from the original owners--yep! the family who lived here close to twenty years ago. It was a note from the mother to her daughter. It was a short expression on a cutesy sticky note. She wanted this young girl to know that her mother thought she was bright and loving--and loved. She told her that she was growing into a wonderful young woman (we figure the daughter must have been about ten or twelve years old) and that she (the mother) was having a fabulous time raising her.

I was crying as I thought about what that would have meant to a little girl. Actually, I'm crying right now as I'm writing this . . . . What a sweet gesture. It doesn't just express love. It's a seed of confidence and strength in a world that constantly tells girls that we're not enough, or too much, or wrong in some fundamental way. Who could this girl be, with a concrete reminder that in her home she was safe and valuable? Who could my daughter be, also raised in this house?

When we had our house blessing, I thought of the moments of joy and sadness and laughter that must have filled this home in the last decades. I imagined that the words of the blessing--peace, joy, comfort, safety--went out into each room and took root. This family wasn't the only one that lived here before we moved in; but I saw us as part of the history of this house. The house was in great condition and had clearly been well taken care of. I remember hoping that the people who lived here were also well taken care of.

What a beautiful example of the power of language! I really wish we could find these people and give that note to this girl, now a grown woman. And I wish we could see who she turned into.


Anonymous said...

Lovely story. It reminds me of the HGTV show "If Walls Could Talk". Funny that even your example made me misty, but you succeeded in not freaking me out!

Mom, Ph.D. said...

Great story--seems a good one to share with students as an example.

The Steel Magnolia said...

Thanks, yall!