Never Give Up Your Awesome

The fifth graders swarmed around me after my hour-long interactive creative writing presentation yesterday. They wanted me to autograph their papers they had used to record the collective story all sixty-eight of them wrote together with me. One girl even asked if I might sign her shirt. I smiled, thinking this is how Justin Bieber must feel.

“Never give up your awesome,” I told them. “Each of you has it. I see it as clear as day. Look at the story you all wrote. You are going to go far!”

Unbeknownst to us at that moment, in a similar elementary school 528 miles away in Newtown, Connecticut, a twenty-year-old gunman was shooting down children of the same age. When I learned of it later last evening, I was so saddened that on a day of such much joy, terror and sadness were spreading elsewhere too.

What are those kids in Gordonsville, VA, whose hearts I touched and who touched mine, thinking now? Is school a safe place to be where we get to write crazy stories with an even crazier writer? Or is it a place of fear and horror?

My mother assured me that they will know their school is a place of joy. As a school volunteer, she knows school for some of those kids is the only place where they are seen, heard, attended to.

And when I heard one of the Connecticut teacher’s stories of how she held her fifteen first graders close to her in a small bathroom near her classroom and told them how much they were loved so that, in her words, at least they would know that before they all died, I am convinced that the world can change through words. Even amidst the sorrow of such aftermath.

I can’t help but think if the young man who assaulted those innocent beings had heard healing words himself, he might not have done what he did.

Whether spoken, or written like the words we strung together yesterday on a white board in Central Virginia, words can make all the difference.

Let us unite together to use them kindly with acts of love, not hate.


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