Monday, January 7, 2013

I'm nobody, who are you?

So I want to be a writer when I grow up. A real, published writer. Who writes books. 
Why do I want this? 
The longer this process has taken and the more difficult it has become, the reason I want to be a writer has become more and more clear to me. (drumroll)
I want to help children love to read and write. I want to go into schools—I want to work with children face to face. I want to share with them the joys reading brings to me. I want to show them that they can be great readers and great writers. I want to bring boxes of books from the Scholastic Book Warehouse sale and hand them out to teachers to build up their classroom libraries. Then I want to give every kid at that school a free book (any book, not just mine). I want to grow very rich so I can fly  all over the world and give books (many books) to every single child who owns not one book of their own.
I do not want to be famous. 
I realized that with great clarity sharpness the other day when Calvin memorized this poem for school:
I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you-Nobody-too?
Then there's a Pair of us?
Don't tell-they'd advertise -you know!
How dreary to be Somebody!
How public-like a frog-
To tell one's name the Livelong June
To an admiring-Bog!
-- Emily Dickinson, "I'm Nobody! Who Are You?"
And here is another poem that's gotten me thinking:
Oh why should the spirit of mortal be proud?
Like a swift-flitting meteor, a fast-flying cloud,
A flash of the lightning, a break of the wave,
Man passeth from life to his rest in the grave. 9

Yesterday, Mary had a chamber music recital. In her introduction, their coach explained to the very small audience (too small—we should have invited people) why it is important for children to participate in chamber music. Her final point was that it deepens the soul. 
I loved that point. I want my children to deepen their souls. I want to deepen my own soul, every, every day. As a country, as a world, thanks to social media and 24-hour news and Youtube, and perhaps even blogs, we all want to be famous. And we are losing our souls in the process. 
Here is a poem my grandfather wrote, my favorite poem in the world:
“Learn to like what doesn't cost much.
Learn to like reading, conversation, music.
Learn to like plain food, plain service, plain cooking.
Learn to like fields, trees, brooks, hiking, rowing, climbing hills.
Learn to like people, even though some of them may be different...different from you.
Learn to like to work and enjoy the satisfaction of doing your job as well as it can be done.
Learn to like the song of birds, the companionship of dogs.
Learn to like gardening, puttering around the house, and fixing things.
Learn to like the sunrise and sunset, the beating of rain on the roof and windows, and the gentle fall of snow on a winter day.
Learn to keep your wants simple and refuse to be controlled by the likes and dislikes of others.”
― Lowell C. Bennion
If we did these things, if we learned to like—to love—these things, I think our souls would be deepened, and our children, who would accompany us on this journey, would benefit. 
Is there anything about becoming famous in those passages? How many of our kids want to become famous rock stars? How many of them want to play for the NBA when they grow up? How many of them want to be famous?
How many of them want to leave this world a little better when they are through with it? 
I think we can inspire these things with our children by reading the very best books with them. Then reading them again and again.
One more quote, also from my grandfather:
“If we thought of life as a gift, we might not demand nearly as much from it. And if we lived more graciously, giving of ourselves more freely to the well-being of others, many of our personal concerns would disappear, and life would become easier for all.”
― Lowell C. Bennion

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