Live the Dream

independence-hall1d634dd113b0294df8db88c5695005d5Thank God today is the first day of early voting in Texas. I plan to take advantage of my right and my duty as a citizen of the United States by casting my ballot sometime this morning. In spite of the fact that I don’t feel tremendous enthusiasm for the candidates for President I still get quite excited thinking of the power that we the people collectively have. I have faith that each person will vote with sincerity and in accordance with his/her conscience. When we enter the voting booth we are ultimately choosing the person who we feel will best represent the totality of the electorate, not just a certain faction or cause. Choosing our executive is an awesome responsibility and one that none of us should take lightly.

Voting will lift a weight from my back. This election cycle has exhausted me and I sadly fear that even when the final results have been announced the bickering between candidates, parties and citizens will continue. I plan to assert my right to remain silent regarding the choice that I have ultimately made. I am rather certain that nobody will change his/her mind in knowing how or why I decided to cast my vote. My pick is now up to me and God and believe me I have literally prayed over what I should do on this day of reckoning because all of us will continue to need His help long after the inauguration next January.

For now I am hoping for a brief respite from political posts on my Facebook wall. I prefer to see mostly images of kittens, babies and travel scenes. I have grown weary of the divisiveness. When I tweet it will be about my feelings regarding the new season of The Walking Dead or which singer performed the best on The Voice. As far as I am concerned this turkey of an election is done and I just want to stick a fork in it before it becomes as dry and tasteless as the holiday meal in the movie Christmas Vacation.

Luckily I am determined to remain an optimist. In spite of all commentary to the contrary I don’t believe that any of us need to travel to another country nor will our own nation collapse. We may feel some bumps and get some bruises but ultimately we will get it right and settle down. It’s what we do. Our history has demonstrated that we have been imperfect many times and downright brilliant in others. Luckily our Founding Fathers had a fairly clear understanding of human nature when they set up the Constitution and all in all it has worked fairly well for us.

We won our revolution against one of the most powerful governments on earth and then set about the business of running our own country. The bets were all against us and we hadn’t been around for very long when Britain did its best to snatch us back into the fold. They burned the White House and bombarded our ports. Francis Scott key wrote a little ditty about that event which we now call our national anthem. Our leaders spent most of the first seventy five years of our existence arguing over slavery. At first those voices were part of a somewhat muted minority but it didn’t take long for the words of justice to be heard loudly and clearly. When an upstart Republican named Abraham Lincoln pushed the issues related to ending slavery a great schism erupted. Brother was fighting brother in a contest that would scar the nation in ways that we feel up to this very day. When we engaged in a war against each other once again the rest of the world suspected that our little experiment in governing was soon to face a tragic end but, they were wrong. Somehow we found the good sense to come together again even if with an undercurrent of discord and resentment. When the world wars of the twentieth century threatened humanity we became brothers and sisters once again. We argue and bicker like siblings often do but whenever push comes to shove we always seem to find ways to set aside our differences and carry on.

We’ve had our ups and our downs as a country. We took far too long to accept the idea that women should be the equal of men. We so tragically and erroneously held on to the institution of slavery even as it became more and more apparent that it was immoral. We pushed the native Americans aside and stole their land and way of life. We’ve made many mistakes and yet the evolution of our government has been continuous. We have made corrections and done our best to protect the rights of an incredibly diverse populace. Our work is never finished and as we attempt to fix things we often disagree on the proper course of action. We have enough belief in our nation to return to the ballot box again and again to voice our concerns and choose the leaders who will hopefully work for all of us.

One of the most moving moments of my life came when I was standing alone in Independence Hall in Philadelphia. I had lingered after the rest of my tour group had left. I wanted to really feel the spirit of those brave souls who crafted their Declaration of Independence on a hot July day. I stood among the original furnishings, the colonial chairs and tables. I thought of the men who were there. I felt the determination that they must have had. Every single one of them understood that they were risking their own lives in just being present for such an undertaking. Theirs was a treasonous act, punishable by death. Somehow their vision of a new kind of democracy kept them focused on their task. Even then their opinions differed. They found ways to compromise and build solidarity for their cause. They were quite audacious in believing that they might successfully break ties with the powerful far away government that did not appear to understand their needs. What they were suggesting was frightening and almost unbelievable.

We are the recipients of their great gift. We enjoy the benefits of those who continued to fight to create a more and more perfect union. One by one we are allowed to voice our individual opinions. Like our forefathers we must sometimes demonstrate a willingness to compromise and work together. Of late we are having a bit of a problem with that. My hope is that we will become so weary of the divisions that have are presently the standard of politics that we will find a way to join together again. Perhaps there is someone whom we have yet to meet who will see himself or herself as a uniter, someone who understands that the essence of this country lies in its willingness to respect and include its many points of view.

So for now I will dutifully cast my vote and feel the sense of power that my time in the ballot box represents. Then I just want to rest. The journey has been a bit too rough this time around. The cynical side of my nature has been tempted to overtake my psyche far too many times in the last few months. I prefer to remain upbeat as corny as that may seem. I’ll take the earnest efforts of the young people that I know as a sign that we will ultimately be okay. I’ll make my plans for Thanksgiving and once again consider my many blessings rather than dwell on problems. I know in my heart that the American people are mostly good and together we will carry on in hopes of fulfilling the promise that began in that little room in Philadelphia so long ago. Exercise your rights. Vote. Live the dream for which so many have sacrificed.

Waiting

“As soon as I get my house settled I want to have you over.” It was a refrain that she stopdcrm6amc9repeated many times but her invitation was never forthcoming. Forty years later she had died and somehow she had never quite settled things enough at her home to ask us to come visit. It amused me that she never appeared to realize that she had spoken the same refrain for decades. I’m not certain why she chose to wait. I don’t believe that she didn’t want us. Perhaps she simply allowed the time to slip by again and again until it was too late. Each of us are sometimes guilty of putting off until tomorrow and in her case tomorrow never came.

Many moons ago my husband learned that an older man with whom he worked lived in the same neighborhood as ours. They got together and decided to carpool and split the cost of parking in half. It was an enjoyable bit of cooperation. The older man often made the drives more interesting with his descriptions of what he was going to do once he had retired. He planned to travel the country and the world. He saved and saved so that nothing would get in his way of fulfilling his dreams. Riding with my husband was just one more way of being thrifty in pursuit of his ultimate goal. He gave up many many things so that he would be able to really live it up when his working days were over. Sadly he had a heart attack and died only months before all of his ambitions might have come to fruition. He had waited too long to find the enjoyment that he so wanted to experience.

We do a great deal of waiting in our lives. As parents we sometimes wait for the children to grow up before we concentrate on ourselves. We wait for just the right moment to tell someone how much we care about them. We wait until tomorrow to enjoy today when the truth is that none of us have any guarantees that there will be a tomorrow. We find excuses for waiting, thinking that the merry-go-round of our lives will give us millions of chances to grab the golden ring. Sometimes the music stops and we are left regretting that we didn’t embrace the opportunities that we had to accomplish the things most dear to us.

I had a good friend who never missed an occasion to be with friends. She was ready to be with the people that she loved on the spur of the moment. If someone called and asked if they might come over she always invited them into her home. She would swish out the toilet, wipe down the countertops in her kitchen and throw out of place items into a junk room whose door was always closed. She kept cookie dough in the freezer and coffee at the ready. By the time the guests arrived they would be greeted by the aroma of chocolate chips and the smiling face of a woman who always understood that people should come before anything else. When she died the church was filled to the rafters with individuals who spoke of her generosity. She had crammed so much into her young life that we all agreed that she had found the secret to happiness more than anyone we had ever known. She never waited and we were glad.

There are certainly valid reasons for being cautious. We can’t do everything that we wish unless we are ridiculously wealthy. We have responsibilities that limit how much free time that we have. It is obvious that we sometimes have to plan. Still we shouldn’t be so self sacrificing or perfectionist that we never reach the point of feeling comfortable enough to act on our promises or our desires.

I know a man who says that if he has too much money left over when he dies then he has done something wrong. He realizes that he can’t take his wealth with him and he also doesn’t think that his heirs should have to wait for him to be gone to enjoy the fruit of his labors. He frequently plans fabulous trips and takes his children and grandchildren along to explore the wonders of the world. He believes that it is way more fun to share with them now than to leave them a major inheritance later. He doesn’t worry that he may one day become like King Lear and be abandoned by his descendants in his hour of need. He trusts that they will do right by him. Because of his attitude he has memories that few people ever experience.

All of our days are numbered regardless of how old or young we are. We only pass this way once unless there really is reincarnation. We need to be wary of always waiting to reach just the perfect moment. If we want to see the Grand Canyon then we need to find a way to get there. If we’d like to return to school the first step will be gathering the admissions information and actually doing something with it. If we want to exercise we will carve out a block of time each day and adhere to that routine. If we think we need more time to ourself we will inform everyone that we are not to be disturbed. There is no reason to wait to call that friend, start that book, visit that grandparent, take that leap of faith.

Waiting is the source of so many regrets. We know in our hearts that we need to take action and yet we so often never do. The best way to begin is to create a reasonable plan just like my friend who was always ready for surprise visits. Keep it simple. Take forward progress one step at a time and don’t stop or make excuses.

When I was working toward an advanced degree I taught school all day long and drove an hour away to classes two night a week. There were times when I became so tired that I thought about quitting. In those moments I literally set a goal of making it just one more day. Bit by bit I moved forward and before I knew it I was looking at a diploma. I might have found dozens of reason for waiting but I was determined. I have since followed the same routine in achieving any goal that I set for myself.

If I had one piece of advice for anyone it would be to grab life by the tail and don’t let go. Wait in line if you must but don’t wait to enjoy every single day. Get up in the middle of night and drive to Montana like my next door neighbor used to do if that makes you happy. Go ahead and spoil yourself now and again. Open your arms and your home to those who want to take the time to be with you. Smooth out your hair, put on your shoes and keep a smile on your face as you rush out to really experience all that the world has to offer. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

One Fingertip Away

fingertipsInside each of us is the instinct to flee from frightening events. As children we may attempt to fake an illness to avoid an unpleasant situation. As adults we may take a mental health day when our jobs begin to overwhelm. Sometimes our lives become so stressful or unhappy that we dream of running away. Few of us ever choose the easy way out of a sticky situation but such behavior is not unheard of.

When I was in college I landed an internship at one of the local elementary schools. I had a fancy title of some sort but in essence I was a teachers’ aide. I spent my days doing tasks that the real educators did not have enough time to accomplish. Only once in a blue moon did a teacher realize that I might enjoy working with students. Most of the time I was in the copy room running off worksheets and tests. That’s where I met a young woman who was a bonafide teachers’ aide who worked full time at the school and would likely still be there long after I had returned to the university to study. She was quite sweet but undeniably adrift. Her job was unfulfilling, low paying and at times demeaning. Sadly she saw no way out of her dilemma. She needed the income and saw no other possibilities on the horizon. In her mind she was stuck in a deep rut from which there was never going to be a means of escape. Her unhappiness enveloped her so that she was unable to even consider any of the ideas that I suggested as we ran the mimeograph machine, collated and stapled.

One morning she was nowhere to be found as I made my rounds to determine what kind of work was in store for me. Everyone was asking if I had seen her. I assumed that she was caught in traffic or perhaps she was so sick that she was unable to call the school to explain her absence. By mid-morning rumors were spreading through the school. The secretary had called the young woman’s home and her family insisted that she had left for work at the same time that she always did. We were all worried and wondering what might have happened. It was not until the next day that we learned the shocking truth.

It seems that the girl had indeed intended to go to work just as she always had. The mere thought of repeating the dull and never ending tasks made her stomach churn but she was a dutiful person. As she sat in the wall to wall traffic she just happened to glance at the side of the road where a sign noted the distance from that spot to Dallas. At that very moment something primal overcame her usually rational thinking. She knew in her heart that she could not face her job that day. On an impulse she decided to drive to Dallas instead. She went past the exit for the school and just kept traveling north until she saw the skyscrapers of Big D. She had no plan, no idea of what she intended to do next. She only knew that there was no way that she could go back to the life that she had been living and stay sane. She apologized to the principal and tendered her resignation effective immediately.

All of us were stunned by her actions. I wasn’t sure whether I thought that she was crazy or the bravest person that I had ever known. I understood that she had flaunted protocols and demonstrated a profound lack of responsibility, and maybe even maturity, but I somehow admired her willingness to excise the pain she had been experiencing in one fell swoop. Over the years whenever I found myself in situations that were overwhelming I thought of her and felt the temptation to emulate her actions. I wondered how freeing it must have felt to shoot the bird at obligations and fly away, if only for a day. Of course I never followed through on such thoughts because ultimately it was not in my nature. Still there was something fascinating about the idea of simply walking away from conflicts.

A few days ago I watched an ESPN 30 for 30 film about the incredible University of Houston Phi Slamma Jamma basketball team that made history in the early nineteen eighties. The movie was a story within a story as it traced the meteoric rise of one of the greatest teams in the history of college sports and their tragic inability to grab the ultimate prize of a national championship. In one of the most famous games of all time Houston was literally one fingertip and mere seconds away from the title when a player named Bennie Anders just missed his shot.

Things fell apart for the team and for Bennie after that. The glory days were gone as key players left for the NBA. Bennie who was younger stayed on but seemed to be in continual conflict with his coaches and his teammates. He ultimately became embroiled in an altercation with one of them, went to his car, and came back with a loaded gun. He was arrested and expelled from the university. After that he simply seemed to disappear. A young man who had once been thought to have enough talent to earn a place in the NBA was nowhere to be found. Thirty years later his former teammates located him living an ordinary life in Michigan. Bennie insisted that he was happy because he was free.

I am a promise keeper. Once I commit to a job, an event, a relationship I believe in going all the way. I don’t like the idea of letting other people down but I’m not so ready to fault those who understand that they must sever ties quickly and without warning or be eternally trapped. Sometimes I believe that we really do have to flee certain situations when they break us into a million little pieces. We may need a bit of time away from the fury or we may realize that we can never turn back again. I have not been the victim of abuse nor have I ever felt as though I was going to lose my mind but there are those who quite legitimately realize that they are on the verge of disaster and that their only recourse is to run away from something terrifying.

Those of us witnessing such behavior may be stunned but until we know all of the circumstances it is not up to us to judge. The beautiful thing about the Bernie Anders story is that the only question his old friends asked when they found him was whether or not he was happy. They embraced him just as he was and he felt their love, commenting on the powerful impact that it had on him. He was touched by their concern and the fact that they had never forgotten him. They were heroes but so was he.

We have basic human instincts locked inside our DNA designed to protect us from harm. They signal our brains when we are in danger. All too often we ignore the signs until it is too late or we have to make such dramatic moves that they seem to be extreme. We fail to listen for the tiny voices that tell us when our situation is not what it should be. We hide our fears and fail to reach out for the help that almost always is available. We think that we are alone when our emotions overcome us. We falsely believe that our faltering indicates that we are weak when admitting our concerns is actually the bravest thing that we might do.

Life can be unbelievably cruel at times. We make decisions over and over again as we meet the challenges that befall us. We can take the exit to work or keep heading down the highway. We can miss our shot at fame and fortune or choose to lead a quiet life on our own terms. Whatever we decide to do, it should feel good. When it doesn’t we are likely on the wrong track. Life is never about a single game. It is the sum of all that we do. We always have another chance to make the dunk or just walk away. 

October Is Pink

downloadIt has become traditional to focus on breast cancer each October. We are showered in pink to remind us of an horrific disease that continues to strike women in spite of our best efforts to eradicate it. Virtually everyone has known someone who had to deal with the physical and emotional effects of breast cancer. Much of the time the debilitating treatments lead to remission but all too often some lose their battle.

We are taught as young girls how to give ourselves breast exams. It is every woman’s nightmare to find something suspicious. Some of us are perennially lumpy making it more difficult to notice slight changes but we try. Most women schedule regular visits to their doctors and endure painful mammograms just to be certain that nothing is amiss. When a doctor signals that there may be a problem with a concerned look and a battery of more extensive tests women find themselves in a state of quiet panic and worry. There is nothing quite like the not knowing, the possibility of a life changing diagnosis.

I have watched friends and family members get the words that nobody wants to hear. The diagnosis of breast cancer has been confirmed. That little lump that seemed somehow different from the rest was indeed cancerous. They embark on a journey filled with uncertainty and fear. In spite of their most valiant efforts their disease overtakes their lives. Even the most optimistic among them is never quite the same.

The treatments for breast cancer vary depending on the extent and type of cancer but all of them are invasive. They cause pain and suffering. They interrupt the normal flow of life. They debilitate and challenge. We all know exceptional women whose courage somehow makes dealing with breast cancer seem far less terrible than it really is. They keep the faith, trusting in their doctors, their families and their God. They smile through the times when they are exhausted. They wear hats or wrap their heads in colorful scarves when their lovely hair falls out in great handfuls. They do their best to keep up a good front and to continue with their routines even as they feel so very sick. They are warriors of the bravest kind but there is always the deep mostly unspoken fear that the treatments will not work or that the cancer will return even after remission.

We sometimes forget how devastating breast cancer may be. We hear success stories and believe that the fixes will be rather easy and certain. We watch women working in between therapies and imagine that the process of fighting the cancer must not be as terrible as we had imagined. We notice the dark circles around their eyes and the new wigs they are sporting but we don’t see them getting sick in the bathroom or crying from the assault on their bodies and minds. We put the onus on them to keep us feeling happy with their smiles. The truth of their situation is sometimes too hard for us to face.

Long illnesses like breast cancer test relationships. The women who are embroiled in a fight for their very lives all too often lose ground in their careers and sometimes even in their marriages. Their battlefield is littered with lost opportunities and misunderstandings. They all too often feel alone. People may rally around them in the beginning but when the going gets really tough only those who truly love and understand them remain. Everything and everyone is tested. It becomes more than just a matter of medical treatments. It is an altering experience in which only what is most important becomes obvious.

While devoting an entire month to a particular cause is laudable we have to be careful that it does not have the effect of making us lose interest. We humans are funny creatures and sometimes over stimulation causes us to lose focus. When we see football players wearing pink shoes and people running marathons in pink tutus there is a risk that we will take the situation more lightly than we should. We mistake the levity as an indication that maybe breast cancer is not as worrisome as we may have thought. We wonder if all of the attention has provided so much funding that our contributions aren’t really needed. We grow weary of the reminders that are so present for thirty one days.

We have certainly gone a long way toward eradicating breast cancer and we may even reach a day when we know how to eliminate it entirely. Until then we still have far too many women having to courageously fight for their very lives. Most of them happily make it thanks to the research and the medical advances that continue to be found. Sadly some women do in fact die. We have all known them, beautiful souls taken from us by a terrible disease. It is for them that we fight, not just in October but all year long, day in and day out. It is for the mothers, sisters, girlfriends, wives everywhere that we support the efforts to find treatments and cures and ways to eliminate this dreaded disease.

October is a reminder to all of us to embrace and support the women who are either presently dealing with breast cancer or who have had to deal with it in the past. Let them speak honestly of their ordeal. Allow them to cry or laugh or react however they wish. Let them know that we are thinking of them and that we love them. If you are a woman use this month to check on your own health. Take the time to schedule a mammogram or visit your doctor. Be proactive and sensitive.

I can see the beautiful faces of the women I have known who have grappled with the monster we call breast cancer. They are perhaps the bravest people that I have ever encountered. I salute them and the families who walked hand in hand with them. They have inspired all of us who watched them. This is their month. This is our month. It is October and we gird ourselves for battle. It matters little what color we wear as long as we are prepared to fight. We must never become complacent. The stakes are just too high.

Cancer of any kind is horrific. I lost both of my grandmothers to cancer. My beloved mother was a victim of cancer. A dear dear friend was taken by cancer. A beautiful cousin is undergoing treatments for cancer even as I write these words. A good friend is fighting cancer with all of his might. My hope is that they will be among the victors that I have also known, the people who made it through the dark hours and now bask in the sunlight of their personal miracles. Find those in your circle who are battling whether it be breast cancer or lymphoma or cancer of the lung. Embrace them. Remember them. Most of all love them.   

    

Unexpected Showers

flower561eac4e-9ad0-4c6a-9d72-078c0400bce7My life has a distinct pattern. A red thread of continuity runs through it connecting all of its disparate aspects into a cohesive whole. There is an irony to the fact that I just attended my fiftieth high school reunion over the past weekend and today I will return to the building where I laughed and learned so long ago so that I might help a new generation of students to understand the intricacies of mathematics. My own school no longer exists, at least not in the form that it had when I was there. A unique set of circumstances forced it to close, leaving the brick and mortar structure that had housed my own hopes and dreams as nothing but an empty shell haunted by the spirit of those of us who had walked the halls before. It was rescued from destruction by the Jesuits and in particular by Father T.J. Martinez who saw opportunity in the abandoned rooms. Under his guidance a new educational mecca rose from the ashes. Today Cristo Rey Jesuit Preparatory High School stands where Mt. Carmel once lived. It is a school designed to provide minorities and economically challenged students with the academic rigors that once defined my own education.

When I am in the school the past and present merge in my mind. I am able to recall what happened in each of the rooms and to remember my own journey as a student. I find that the young men and women with whom I work are not different at all from me and my classmates even though five decades separate us. They may do their work on computers and carry calculators and smart phones but the essence of what they want to accomplish in life is exactly the same as the desires that we had. They are on an exploratory adventure as they attempt to make sense of the world around them both rationally and emotionally. They are inevitably quite earnest when they ply me with questions both related to mathematics and to my own journey when I was a student in that same place. They desperately want to make something of themselves but often fall short of being as responsible as they need to be. They are young and not yet willing to believe that they are not in a race against time. They don’t yet realize that they will have many opportunities to right themselves and begin again.

I have the perspective of age. I am able to look back and see that without a doubt we humans are a resilient bunch. We fall down and get back up over and over again. We learn as much from our failures as from our successes, sometimes even more. We generally grow wiser and tougher with each passing year. We may not get exactly what we want but as the old saw goes we tend to get what we need. I attempt to convey such thoughts to the teenagers with whom I work. They usually trust me but often become so discouraged that they want to give up the fight. I have to convince them that each of us encounter those moments when we are so weary that we no longer want to try but those are the exact times when we most need to find the strength and determination that is dwelling inside our very souls. It’s has been quite gratifying to watch so many of my charges ultimately succeed. I have been in their shoes. I have known fear. I have literally wanted to run away from challenges. I have felt alone. Always there was someone who quietly took my hand and walked with me, giving me the courage that I needed.

When I was only five years old my parents enrolled me in first grade at a Catholic school. My mother had just given birth to my youngest brother and one of my uncles was dying. The family was in a state of chaos and my elders believed that I would be happier being away from the maelstrom. Nobody consulted me. It just happened and I was not happy at all. I had never once been away from my mom, not even for a few hours. I had not been properly prepared for what was to come and I was terrified. My mother purchased a new lunch box and book bag for me and made some dresses that I might wear. One day without warning she awoke me early and sent me off with my father who quite unceremoniously took me to my classroom. I was in a fog of extreme fear but I refused to cry. When we all went outside for the ceremonial flag raising I thought that it was surely time to go home but, of course, it was only the beginning of the day.

I remember little after that. When I opened my lunchbox it had been invaded by ants which I merely picked away because I was too embarrassed to talk with my teacher. Fortunately my Aunt Polly had decided to come check on me. When I saw her she was like a visage from heaven and I have loved her forever for caring so much for me. She reported the insect invasion to the powers that be and I never again had to fight the tiny creatures for my food. Still I felt so shy and insecure but I was lucky to have a gentle and gifted teacher who saw my pain and helped me to adjust. I would forever model my own teaching style after her kindness and intuition.

There was a girl named Virginia who befriended me. I don’t know if she felt the same about me but I always considered her to be my very best friend at school. She was wise and considerate and instructed me in the ways of doing things properly. Again and again she seemed to come to my rescue and I loved her so. I always believed that she saved me from total despair. I remembered her even when I was an aging woman moving rapidly toward my seventieth year on the planet. I often wondered what had happened to her and hoped with all my heart that she was doing well. Little did I know that I had been near her when I was in high school but somehow never realized that she was the same girl who had been so sweet to me. It was only this past weekend when I was able to put all of the puzzle pieces together and learn that the Virginia that I had so admired in my high school class was the same person as “my Virginia” from first grade.

Ironically Virginia had a career in education just as I had. The parallels in our lives are actually quite remarkable much as they are with generation after generation of humans. We move about doing our best and sometimes influence one another in ways of which we are often unaware. Hopefully it is our kindness that people remember when they think of us, for the alternative is so tragic. We experience so many emotions and in turn cause others to react to our deeds and our remarks. The circle of life is real and it goes round and round just as the earth as it travels around the sun.

I enjoy working with young people, especially teenagers because they are really at the beginning of their time as adults. They are in a state of metamorphosis that will ultimately be beautiful as long as they have concerned people who truly care about them as my teachers and aunts and classmates always did. Those unexpected showers of love help us to bloom.

I have lately been helping to edit college application essays. In them I see hopefulness for the future. I am able to travel back in time and empathize with the young people who so desperately want to make a difference in their own lives and those of the people around them. I find great joy and optimism in reading their innermost thoughts and understanding that they are me and I am them. Just as we witness the sunrise each morning, our youth are ready to carry the responsibilities that lie before them. Knowing that this is certain comforts me everyday. It binds my story with the future.