Love

Love

Love is a carved wooden goblet

Wood darkened by age and use

Base sprawling wide, solid, unshakable

Stem spiraling upward

The generous curve of the goblet whispers stories once carved deep

now erased by the caress of countless touches

While the lip of the cup runs round endless and smooth to the mouth

The well of the cup dwells deep and dark

waiting to be completed with something rich and filling

Love is a carved wooden goblet

 

This poem was inspired by Liz Prather’s A Walk Through the Forest prompt

Artwork by Lesley Shepherd

Empathy is Always the Answer

Empathy is Always the Answer

I believe empathy is always the answer. Hate seems to dominate the news and social media. This hurts my heart. I don’t understand how anyone can spend so much priceless life energy on hate. I turned 50 this year and the one lesson I have learned is that hate never solved anything. Love is the opposite of hate, but for love to stand a chance against hate we must first have empathy. I envision empathy as the roots of a tree. While the first roots may be small and tender, eventually they delve deeply into the earth to both feed and support the tree. The deeper and stronger the roots grow then the stronger and taller the tree. In my metaphor, the roots of the tree are empathy and the tree itself is our humanity. Empathy is essential to our humanity, because without it we cannot love. Empathy is the beginning of understanding and understanding cures hate. Empathy helps us see other people as human and builds connections between us that make it harder to sustain hate. Once we have seen that others are like us we can no longer see “others” as something frightening, alien, and less than human – less than us.

My first Ph.D. class was online. A few weeks into classes, my grandfather died. The timing of the arrangements combined with my work schedule put me on a plane during our scheduled weekly class. The next week we experienced severe thunderstorms which knocked our power out – moments before class was due to start. Missing two classes in a row is a pretty big deal for graduate classes. When I contacted my instructor to explain myself, again, all I could think about was the many students who have shared similar versions of back-to-back catastrophes and my frequent skepticism (the grandparent death toll at midterms and finals is alarming). I was sure he wouldn’t believe my explanations, I would fail the class, be kicked out of the program, and so on. None of those things happened. He graciously accepted that sometimes life happens and we discussed how I would make up what I missed. I did the work and we moved on. I aced the class, stayed in the program, and earned my Ph.D.

I have often thought about this experience. Life happens to students and sometimes those students have made mistakes and bad choices. Now that I’ve been on the other side of the desk it is easier for me to give students the benefit of the doubt. I know life really does happen. I strive to apply this lesson outside the classroom as well. There is an old saying: “You can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” This is a very ancient saying I’ve heard attributed to many cultures, but it is a universal truth. Until we share someone’s experience we cannot understand them. While we certainly don’t want to truly experience the difficulties and tragedies of others, and most people wouldn’t wish us to, we can all benefit from imagining ourselves in others’ shoes. I wonder how much tragedy could be averted if we did this more?

Write your own This I Believe essay and learn more about the NPR program, companion book, and web site.

Artwork by Picography on Pixabay

Because You Asked About the Line Between Religion and Faith

Because You Asked About the Line Between Religion and Faith

Books walls rules structure

Music poetry prayer

Bulwark and support

Minefields and cracked foundations

Blood and ashes on our lips

 

In ancient mountains

Touch comforting newborn cry

Rain soothing dry earth

Nurturing bloom and fruit for

Nourishing spirt and flesh

 

Religion a tool

Gripped to protect or destroy

Faith benevolence

A gift to lighten our load

Without faith religion fails

 

Interested in creating your own “Line Between” poem? Check out the the Line Between prompt that inspired me and #JustWrite.

I Am From

I Am From

I am from orchards and soccer balls, windmills and beaches where it is too dangerous to swim;

I am from hillsides of waving white and pink blossoms and truckloads of dark-faced strangers to reap their fruit;

I am from secret hideaways earned by battle-scarred arms and legs and hair torn out by the roots yet filled with sweetness and laughter;

I am from the pine trees are a home run and the power pole marks home plate;

I am from woodsmoke-scented nights huddled on the hill beneath a blanket, cradling a thermos filled with stew, the imprint of a soccer ball still stinging on my frozen thigh;

I am from snow forts that last all winter and “better use the garage door, it’s the only one not blocked”;

I am from shoveling the farm pond and begging Santa for ice skates, toboggans and runner sleds, hot chocolate and cookies, and hand-knit hats, scarves, and mittens;

I am from hot afternoons playing kick the can and late nights playing flashlight tag, “don’t swim there because of the undertow” and “didn’t you hear a kid drowned there,” and bet you can’t swim out to the raft without drowning;

I am from popup trailers, mountain pies, campfires, and climbing a new mountain every year;

I am from chocolate molds and elaborate easter bunnies, cherry cokes, and french-fries paid for with berry picking money;

I am from the War of 1812 and the Underground Railroad, lake freighters, and Great Lakes captains.

I created a more interactive version of this poem using ThingLink. Learn more about how to write your own “Where I’m From” poem modeled on George Ella Lyon’s famous work as well as other ways to explore your origin story in writing and #JustWrite.

 

Praise to the Teacher Writer

Praise to the Teacher Writer

The writers come to us, unknowing and fearful

They know working with words is dangerous

As language is combustible and corrosive – incendiary

They worry they do not have the skill for such dangerous work

But then we fill them with their own fire

and teach them how to build firebreaks

As well as how to raze the fields to prepare for new growth

Even as we salve their burns, we show them their scars and raw wounds

are badges of honor and testament to their power

Praise to the teacher writer who brings writers through a crucible

not unscathed but tempered – stronger, brighter than before

 

Learn more about praise poetry and how to write your own praise poem and #JustWrite!

Won’t You Celebrate With Me

Won’t You Celebrate With Me

Won’t you celebrate with me

That I love learning and laughing with my students

That I possess patience and understanding

That I am sweet and kind and helpful

That I have pushed my students to learn and do more than they thought possible

That I have made my students proud of their accomplishments

Won’t you celebrate with me a life that has given so much to others

 

Won’t you celebrate with me

That I push my students out of their comfort zone

That I am an awesome teacher who gives out chocolate

That I possess the superpower of encouragement

That I am cool because I teach with Harry Potter

That I challenge my students to be more creative

Won’t you celebrate with me that against all the odds we survived

 

This praise poem was written collaboratively with my Spring 2016 first- and second-year writing students.