Monthly Archives: April 2013

So Much to Say


With all that has happened this past week, I feel as though a lot of people are compelled to write down their feelings; to be heard. Everyone has so much to say. We used to talk to one another at the local diner, or on our way through the grocery store aisles, or even via a quick chat with the neighbor as we went out to get the mail. Nowadays, it seems as though the bulk of the talking is done in writing via blogs, social media posts, feed updates, comment sections, and the like. Much like I am doing right now. I have a lot to say, so I write while you read. Then I’ll read what you write. And so it goes as huge amounts of information enter our brains unfiltered, going around and around until we process how we feel about any given subject…or get overwhelmed.

Last week, two bombs tore a rift in a 117 year old tradition, compelling people to run in to help those who could not run away; a fertilizer plant explosion shook Mother Earth in Richter scale proportions a few days before Earth Day; a man formerly known as an Elvis-impersonator sent ricin-laced letters to elected officials, while elected officials chose not to listen to the majority of the people who elected them and instead chose to vote down background checks for gun applicants.

On these subjects and more, everyone has something to say. Including me, it seems. Why do we crave so much information? Why do some type for hours until their fingers are numb, while others read every word until their eyes are bloodshot? I think we have so much to say simply because we can. It is the beauty of our liberty here in America to be able to speak and read freely. Open dialogue is a gift not to be taken lightly because it connects us. Language is what elevates us as humans. It is what forms everything from marriage proposals to ideologies. Words can be painful, happy, drive one to kill, save a life, or command a dog to sit. They are in one word – impressive.

It is when words are used in a technological vacuum that they lose their true meaning and become distorted – to the point where we have nothing important to say or have any value to add anymore. Similarly, when we are no longer able to speak face-to-face with our neighbor and learn about them – truly hear what they have to say through their accompanying facial expressions and mannerisms, that the personal connection language makes is relegated to lines of type preceded by a blinking cursor.

The irony of me typing this is not lost on me. However, I do invite you to now go out and talk to a human being face-to-face about the events of this past week. Listen to what they have to say, impart your thoughts upon them, and walk away knowing you made a made a connection because you not only heard their words, but you saw their tears.

Many in-person bonds were made through the tragedies of last week. A runner who stopped to comfort a wounded stranger, a nurse who held the hand of a dying women whose name he did not know, or a couple who stopped to bequeath a well-deserved medal on a young woman who was robbed of her personal victory. Few words were spoken, yet they had so much to say. It was their actions that spoke volumes.

In closing, I invite you to always follow this golden rule whether online or in person, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”


Are You Smart?


What defines intelligence? Is it your GPA, IQ score, or merely the fact that you can find your way out of a paper bag with ease? Is it that you know a lot about a little or know a little about a lot? I have thought long and hard about this, simply because I’m saddened by seeing folks be so mean and disrespectful to each other on social media platforms, all in the name of extolling how smart they think they are. And because, to me, kindness outweighs intelligence. So I have a theory on intelligence – or being informed as I prefer to call it. (That is why being “Informed” plays such a big part in Theo’s journey in my book.)

In order to be informed, you need three things: 1) exposure, 2) understanding, and 3) retention.

1) Exposure – unless you have seen, heard or felt it, you wouldn’t know about it. So next time someone doesn’t know what a word means that is commonplace to you, don’t roll your eyeballs and tell them, “How dumb can you be?” Because [gasp] they might have never heard the word before it came out of your mouth. Instead, re-explain what you mean in simpler terms so that they can learn from you. Lift them up.

2) Understanding – I can teach you all day long about the theory of relativity, but if you don’t have the mental capacity to understand what I am teaching you, then you won’t learn it. Everyone’s brain is built a little bit differently. One person may excel at math, while another is excellent at history. Does it make the math person stupid at history or the history person stupid at math? I sure hope not, because then that would mean I’m an absolute idiot at math.

3) Retention – So I spent all day teaching you about the theory of relativity, and while you understood it long enough to take the test and ace it, you forgot all about it in a few years because you went on to be an English scholar, get married and have three beautiful children. Information relative to your everyday life started to imprint on the brain cells previously dedicated to the theory of relativity. Which, ironically, makes intelligent relative, no? So if you were able to retain the information at one point and then not now, does that make you smart then and stupid now? Nah.

That is the beauty of our world. The fact that each of us operates and understands things differently is what adds diversity to our lives. So next time you get annoyed at someone who doesn’t think like you, remember they might be able to school you on how to grow a successful vegetable garden. And if you think they don’t know anything more than you do, then remember that arrogance is uglier than ignorance.

As mentioned, I’ve thought about this more and more lately as I’ve seen examples of one person calling out another on their ignorance. And as I read through my book again and again and see mistake after mistake, I cringe. But then I realize something basic, something important, and something that levels the playing field for all of us – I’m human. Yes, folks, I make mistakes. And I will continue to do so for the rest of my life. More importantly, I will continue to learn and become more informed for the rest of my life as well. If someone wants to point out that I’ve used a semi-colon improperly; (whoops, there it is!) please do so – kindly. I don’t know it all and want to learn more. I want to better myself everyday and inspire those around me to do the same.

Where do I net out on all of this? I think it is more important to be kind than smart – or right. WHOA, STOP THE PRESSES! So am I saying we should give up on grammar, algebra, and the like? Of course not, because that would be stupid. Rather, I believe if we all helped, taught in an inspiring way, and opted for a positive vs. a negative spin on our interactions with others, then we would be in a better place. A place where we can all be smart.