This I Believe

Mary - Pendleton, Oregon
Entered on June 27, 2006

I believe in words. They have the only power that really exists and like any tool, they can be manipulated, abused, and misused. They can also heal the broken hearted, light the darkness, and transform the mundane. In words are the truths of our world. Novelists wrap the truths we don’t want to see up in a package that is at least once removed from us. Pundits wrap and warp the truth until it takes the form they want us to see, words littering their world. Musicians and poets hide the truth in metaphor, forcing us to search the words for meaning. Teachers help us to see what’s in the spaces between words so that we can think for ourselves.

I spent my childhood hiding behind the garage, in the shade of the blackberry bushes reading books. I spent my teenage years hiding from people, reading books and writing painful poems. Now I read to escape. Even when I’m not impressed with the ideas of others, I respect their willingness to put words out into the world. I write to free my mind, because words keep bumping against me like a cat wanting lap time.

The real power of words isn’t just that they can reveal the truth or transport ideas from one mind to another, they provide a way for us to question the world. I remember my pastors always encouraging us to dig through the Bible for ourselves, to find out if we agreed with the sermon’s message. Faith in the churches I grew up in was a matter of struggle, of questioning and still believing. Faith is a battle and words are our weapons. We can show the love we profess to believe in or show thoughtless selfishness. We can participate in healthy debates or judge someone for challenging our beliefs.

I am an English teacher because I know without words we would have nothing. Everyone loses their words at some point. The importance of words are reflected in our culture as we beg to know a baby’s first word; my job is to help kids find their next words. Most of my students find their connection to words by the time they finish high school, some even find it in my classroom. Whether or not I believe I’ve made a positive difference in the lives of my students, I rest assured that I’ve exposed them to words, their ideas and questions.

I believe in words. God created the world with a word. Letter by letter our lives are built. Word by word they fade into memories: funeral eulogies, gravestone epitaphs, newspaper obituaries. We live on in the stories our relatives and friends tell, in the letters and journals we wrote, in the words that seared their way onto the minds of others. This I believe, words shape the world.