Words are a powerful thing. The right word at the right time can change things. Two of my top ten things in the whole wide world involve words, books and snail mail. First lets talk about a couple new books.
Yesterday two potential bestsellers broke shelf, “Red Shirts” by John Scalzi and “Alexander Outland” by G.J. Koch http://ginikoch.com/ both are funny and infinitely readable, chock full of geek insider humor that will still be funny even if you don’t get the pop culture reference. Scalzi has arrived already with “Fuzzy Nation” (his last book for those who don’t follow his daily penning at http://whatever.scalzi.com/) hitting the NYT Hardcover list in its first week of sales. I don’t feel the need to tell you much about him or his book as so many others have said it more eloquently than I could. Let me promise you that if you can find a copy of this book, and buy it, you will need to make space to read it through to the end; because it’s that good.
Ms. Koch on the other hand is still on her way, struggling out of the cocoon of genre publishing that has nurtured and hampered many the nascent author. Her series, that began with “Touched by an Alien,” is a remarkable example of a developing voice, easily relegated by booksellers who haven’t read it to “disposable genre fiction,” the language and character development is always a little more, and each one improves a bit on the last. Her Alien series are respectable “on base” swings of her mighty pen, but Alexander Outland is her first “out of the park” hit. Here is hoping readers take notice.
However neither of these books was the most important printed words I read yesterday, nor was it beginning my next book “Praying for Strangers,” or the brief reread of favorite passages in “Tutu: Authorized” before I had to return it to my library. The most important thing I read yesterday came in a small envelope from Bremerton, Washington. It was simply a snail mail from my neice.
My neice is all and all a pretty remarkable woman. She thinks for herself, makes primarily good decisions, and more importantly always seems to learn from her other kind so rarely makes the the same mistake twice. I don’t actually talk to her much but I hear about her adventures, accomplishments and challenges from her mother, my sister. I am proud to call her family. Yesterday she made me feel like she was proud to call me family as well.
Even though compassion is my highest ideal, there are only a few things I can say I truly love as evidenced by my daily choices, those are books, family, friends, music, cooking, spirituality and snail mail, ordered by how much time I spend for each. (I am learning to love exercise, gardening, ecology and financial responsibility but those are a whole other blog topic each.) I love books. I love getting books (hence the jackpot feel of the Mother’s day Kindle Fire and all the classics now available at my fingertips for free). I especially love to give books to people I love, and I spend serious time selecting the books I give. I have to like the book itself, have to believe the book and message will amuse, entertain and enlighten the recipient a bit. Years ago I made such a choice and gave my niece “The Paper Bag Princess” by Robert Munsch. I also love to write letters and send cards.
Lately I have been feeling a bit like maybe I shouldn’t give books anymore, and this week for the first time in years I didn’t spend Monday morning filling out cards and notes to pop in the outgoing mail. The world it seemed to me had moved on, and I was a bit of a relic to still want to give books, write letters and send cards all the time. Worse than seeming like no one cared, it seemed that I was being a bother or perhaps insensitive, that my penchant for sharing words, mine or others, was more about meeting my own needs than attending to someone else’s.
Yesterday a thank-you note came with a letter inside, I hope she won’t mind me including a brief quote since I am not using her name here, “I will always be grateful for you giving me the book The Paper Bag Princess. Your timing was spectacular and I needed the message at the time. I still LOVE that book. I still pull it out from time to time and read it. The message in that book (and the fact that someone gave it to me, which made it feel even more special), it helped me not only accept myself but be okay with enjoying who I was too.”
I started to cry when I got to that part, because those few words were exactly what I needed to hear, too. There was more to it as well. I give her credit for what beautiful waves of personal growth she made from tiny ripples my words and a gift of words started. She made her own ripple yesterday, her note helped me accept and enjoy who I am too.
I don’t make my living with words anymore, I don’t regret when I did, but I quit writing professionally because the difference I was making then was not the kind of difference I wanted to make. Words are powerful. My business card says “Wordsmith” because Probably words are the most powerful tool in my life. I still write daily; blogs, charts, cards, letters, poems, recipes, journal entries, goals, shopping lists, etc. Sometimes I even write professionally. I read incessantly. I don’t make my living with words, but words make up my life.
Thanks to a few well placed words from my niece I will continue my snail mails and book giving. I might have anyway without her, but the fact her letter arrived on the same day I was journaling about whether I should or not, seems more than coincidental.
Words are powerful, today I choose to use mine for good.