If we put the energy we are putting in hating into changing, our world will be a different place.
Historians can look back on our generation and praise us for the change that we brought to the world,
praise us for reminding the country of the love that made us the place we are today.
This idea can no longer be optimistic.
It has to become factual, literal, and genuine.
We need to put love above all else, and our history will be set in stone.
The words carved into that stone will be clean and revolutionary.
They will be the new beginning that future generations can look back on and be inspired by.
How do you defuse volatility? Or untangle a stubborn knot? What about unlocking a stalemate? If you ask Maggie a 13-year-old in Portland, Oregon, she will tell you that it begins with love. In fact, if you listen to Maggie’s 3-minute talk that she wrote as part of a speech competition, you’ll hear a message whose wisdom is ageless, timeless, and persistent. And yet, sometimes we cannot, as Maggie herself notes, hear it.
Most days Maggie and I spend our time reading novels and discussing the big questions they ask. Some days we talk about middle school. From To Kill a Mockingbird to Pride and Prejudice and now to All the Light We Cannot See, Maggie enjoys contemplating topics that exceed her life experience and occasionally her expansive teenage vocabulary. She thinks about history. She frets about politics. And she’s got her soapboxes too. Boys who don’t read and argue it doesn’t matter. Teachers who don’t assign enough interesting novels. Parents who demand more reading and less Netflix.
But something exceptional you’ll learn from just a short time with Maggie is that she contemplates this world and the one beyond. And by that I don’t mean the afterlife, but rather our best life or perhaps a world where our betters selves live and thrive. Like Jonas in The Giver, (did we read that together, Maggie?), who sees the beyond, she has the ability to see the world in color not just black and white. And that’s why the first time I listened to her speech, I leaned in close. The second time I asked if I could record it. Because in Maggie’s speech there is a wisdom that you need to hear. And the fact that it comes from a 13-year-old girl makes it all the more significant.
In “There is Hope for the Future,” Maggie reminds us that our legacy is tied to both our past and the actions we take today:
As human beings, we think about history, its issues, its successes, and its failures.
We tend to complain about the problems, but we can’t change history.
History is being set in stone.
The only thing that we can change is how we make history.
Our history is being set in stone. Is it going to be strong, or is it going to be weak?
Were we in that writing? Were we carved in that stone?
We need to be thinking about how people treat people because that is our history.
That is our stone.
That is our legacy.
That is what determines if we were weak or strong.
It was not too long ago that Maggie and I discussed the drama of middle school. Some peers were mentioned with frustration and disapproval. When you can see the beyond, it’s agonizing to watch others wallow in the angst of adolescence. But I asked her to consider if perhaps there was more to the story, some explanation behind their actions, their attitudes? Together we wondered if maybe their life at home was not as full and supported as hers or at least somehow different? I don’t remember if we used the word love.
In a time of deep division, I wonder if we can, as Maggie implores, unite under the banner of love. Because if I love you, then I will listen to you. I may not agree with you, but because of love I will try to hear you. And if I practice love, I will try to understand that your life may be different from mine. Maybe we’ve been invited to see our differences, our labels, as justifications for disapproval or even hate. But what if inside of these differences we can find agreement about the extraordinary power of love? Is it possible that love is a weapon that can embrace without annihilation, cutting us to the quick, as it is ought to do? To be struck down by love. Considered yourself invited by Maggie and me.
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Boxcar Writing Labs is based in Portland, Oregon. Private Labs and Group Workshops held locally and online.