Friday, November 2, 2012

Life in the Grey-- Or Maybe More of a Chaotic Kaleidoscope of Colors

I've never really been a strictly "black and white" kind of girl in the purest, metaphorical sense.  With that said, the "black and white" approach to LIFE does invade my thinking and actions quite often.  For example, I like my lists.  Correction, I LOVE my lists!  My lists have lists at times!!! The file folders on the my desktop have file folders within file folders within file folders. SO maybe the OCD aspect of my personality creeps into certain areas of my LIFE more than I would like to admit!  When I say I'm not a "black and white" thinker, my meaning is closer to something like this--My world has always operated better with a canvas of clearly planned out colors and brushstrokes.  In other words, I like to pretend I embrace spontaneity and the the chill "pose (pronounced pose-ay)" attitude of my Haitian friends.  When in reality, I like that approach to LIFE only when it's been well-planned and orchestrated.  Oh, LIFE in contradictions!!!  Truth be told, I cannot exist in a a strict "black and white" world, but I do want my world of color planned and precise.  Here lies the problem--maybe problem isn't the best word here--the frustration, the time of growth, we'll say.

Haiti is a land of grey--ambiguity, indecision, a land where many times people sit and wait for the next person to come along and tell them EXACTLY what to do, and until that person DOES come along, they will SIT and WAIT--pose (pose-ay).  HOWEVER, within that grey ambiguity, exists beautiful (yet chaotic) and vivacious explosions of rainbow hues!  Most days the grey and the rainbow exist side by side.  I don't know if I have the words to explain this contradiction, but my words of description are not needed for it to exist.

So how does this girl who embraces precision, ordered thinking, schedules, and plans learn to exist in this beautiful, yet often frustrating, contradiction?  I listen.  I observe.  I open myself up to the ambiguity and chaos, as challenging as that might be for me at times.  And I LEARN.  I CHANGE.  I EVOLVE. I GROW.  I FIND BALANCE--sometimes painfully.

As my journey here in Haiti continues to unfold more and more (as does my own spiritual evolution within that journey), I'm reminded of an episode from one of C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia.  In the fifth book of the series, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, an insolent, young British boy by the name of Eustace Clarence Scrubb is transformed into a scaly, fire-breathing dragon because of the thoughts in his heart and the selfish choices he has made.  His outward appearance now reflects his inner persona.  He has to spend the majority of the narrative as this creature.  As the story comes to a close, it is only by painful transformation at the claws of Aslan the lion, that the "dragon" is ripped away and he can return to his former self, that of a young boy.  Not just the priggish boy he was before though, a changed boy, a more understanding, loving, and compassionate boy--though he still has his faults, as do we all.  The important part is that his world view is different.  His paradigm has shifted because, like another great writer Harper Lee said in her novel To Kill a Mockingbird, he has spent time in someone else's skin and walked around in it for awhile.  He learned empathy where once there was only selfishness and limited perspective.

As I leran to LIVE and LOVE and SPEAK UP for others in the grey, or at other times, LIVE and LOVE and SPEAK UP for others in this crazy, chaotic (yet beautiful) kaleidoscope of colors, what I am beginning to see most clearly of all is the beautiful, transformative brushstrokes in us ALL.  Sometimes, like Eustace--the boy who became a dragon, the transformation is painful, a ripping away  the scales of our old eyes, our old ways of seeing and doing things.  At other times, it is a ripping away of expectations and old perspectives, replacing them with infinitely more intuitive wisdom.  Here is a taste of what I am learning as my former self is ripped away--Haiti is hard.  Haiti is difficult.  Haiti is ambiguous.  BUT--Haiti is beautiful.  Her people are kind and warm and loving.  Haiti has a story (many stories in fact) to tell.  Haiti will teach you how to SPEAK UP for others.  Haiti will allow you to be a part of something so much BIGGER than yourself.  Haiti will change you by opening your eyes and opening your heart by drawing you closer to the heart of something on a much grander cosmic connection and farther and farther away from your own schedule and agenda.  

I will leave you with this--I don't always like the grey and the chaotic kaleidoscope gets to me sometimes.  HOWEVER, I would rather learn to live in the grey and embrace the kaleidoscope than continue on my OWN well-defined and well-ordered path, for it is in the grey and in the chaotic kaleidoscope that I'm discovering more and more of the heart of what is truly important in this life.  It is here that I am learning to trust and to rest and to listen.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Teacher: For Jay

I want to introduce you to someone who changed my LIFE, who changed LIVES in a small village in Haiti, someone whose LIFE taught so many people how to LIVE and LOVE differently and whose LIFE will continue to teach and change LIVES even now after he has breathed his last here on earth.  His name is Jay, and he was my friend, my adopted nephew, and somebody whom I will NEVER forget.  Death is never easy.  Loss makes who you are at the core of your being feel as if something has been ripped violently and unexpectedly from your hands.  Saying a final goodbye is never going to be something that our hearts embrace willingly, but death is not the end of a person’s LIFE, the end of a person’s story.  Just like the quill marks on an ancient manuscript, the strikes of the keys on an old typewriter, or the keystrokes on the latest laptop, the words and actions of a LIFE will live on after he is gone.  Thus is the case with my sweet friend Jay.  In the days after his death, his adoptive father began calling him The Teacher.  A truer title could not have been chosen for a young man who called himself by so many names (Apren Jay, Jay, PwePwe, Jaspewa, Ti Pat Tomate to share a few).  The Teacher-- my teacher, OUR teacher--a young LIFE that taught all of us, Americans and Haitians in the small village of Neply how to love and how to LIVE, and teaches us still today as we continue to LIVE and speak into each other's LIVES.

We all want to know that somehow the things we did while we here on earth made a difference.  I cannot say for certain if that thought or thoughts like that ever crossed Jay's mind, but that is not the point.  His LIFE did make a difference.  It was a LIFE, all be it short, that spoke volumes and spoke change.  Jay's LIFE echoes the words of Bessie Stanley from her poem "What Constitutes Success."  In Haiti, a country that tends to look upon people with mental and physical disabilities with disdain, shame, hatred, fear, and disgust, Jay's LIFE was never supposed to be viewed as a success, a LIFE to take pride in.  When I read the words of this poem, I see how this young man's LIFE was a LIFE defined by not only survival in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, but a LIFE that can and will always be viewed as a SUCCESS STORY in the truest and purest sense of what it means to LIVE a LIFE worthy of such a title.  Here are her words that so perfectly reflect the LIFE of Jay:

“What Constitutes Success”
  By Bessie Stanley (1905)
He has achieved success who has lived well,

laughed often and loved much;

who has gained the respect of intelligent men
and the love of little children;

who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;

who has left the world better than he found it,

whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul;

who has never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty

or failed to express it;

who has always looked for the best in others

and given them the best he had;

whose life was an inspiration;
whose memory a benediction.

Jay did indeed laugh often, and what a precious laugh it was, often followed by the cutest sly, little grin.  And how he loved.  He loved with a love that was pure, simple, and true--the love a child whose mind did not allow for complicated emotions, only love at its best.  I look at the LIFE of Jay and can honestly say he earned the respect of countless intelligent men and women.  He earned that from everyone he met because of who he was, a special, precious child who was so full of LIFE and SPIRIT!  As for the love of little children, he left behind seven brothers and sisters whose LIVES will be forever changed because they had the honor of calling him "fre m," my brother.  A village full of children began learning to love differently because of their short time living with Jay.  My friend Jay has left the world better than he found it.  He was a child that was never supposed to have an impact of any kind according to his country's definition and standards of a LIFE worth any value.  He was the rescued soul that she speaks of, the soul that was given a second chance to thrive because God knew Jay would give the best he had every day and could only see the best in others.  This short, beautiful LIFE was and will continue to be an INSPIRATION and his memory, a BENEDICTION for us all.  He found beauty in the small and simple things that to many of us would seem trivial and mundane.  My memories of the pride and joy he found in these small, simple things often bring smiles to my face each time they flood my mind.  

Jay was a GREAT SOUL.  I have wept because of the void his absence has left.  I know I will weep again when I feel the sense of that void.  To be completely honest I felt it deeply this morning as I walked home from church with all seven children in our myLIFEspeaks family, and he was not there.  I felt his absence so poignantly as I pushed a stroller and held a small hand this morning because his hand was not there to hold.  The pain of grief and loss is intense, but as Maya Angelou says in her poem, "When Great Trees Fall," --

"And when great souls die, /after a period peace blooms,
 /slowly and always /irregularly."

There are moments when I catch glimpses of that peace blooming and smile, but as she says, it is irregular.  It ebbs and flows with sorrow.  I would like to share with you the rest of this poem because I feel it speaks so truthfully into who Jay became in all of our LIVES.  He was our teacher.  We learned so much from him about how to LOVE differently and about how to be a part of something BIGGER than ourselves.  He is that GREAT SOUL that has fallen, and we miss him dearly and daily.

When Great Trees Fall
Maya Angelou

When great trees fall,

rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down

in tall grasses,

and even elephants

lumber after safety.

When great trees fall

in forests,

small things recoil into silence,
their senses

eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,

the air around us becomes

light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.

Our eyes, briefly,
see with

a hurtful clarity.

Our memory, suddenly sharpened,

gnaws on kind words

promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and

our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.

Our souls,

dependent upon their


now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed

and informed by their

fall away.

We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable 

of dark, cold

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,

slowly and always
irregularly.  Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.

Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.

They existed.  They existed.

We can be.  Be and be
For they existed.

Jay you EXISTED, but you did more than that.  YOU LIVED, and you CHANGED LIVES.  Precious boy, your LIFE spoke, and it will continue to speak.  We will not let your LIFE be silent.  We will tell your story, and we will make sure everyone knows that you did just as Walt Whitman talked about in his poem, "O Me, O Life," -- 

"That you [were] here--that life [existed], and identity 
That the powerful play [went] on, and you [contributed] a verse."

You contributed a verse Jay.  You sang for us.  You told us you loved us with your words and your touch.  You comforted us when we were sad with sweet words of "sa ou gen? (What's wrong?) and I love you."  You played with joy and abandonment.  You cried with hurt and frustration at times because your body and mind did not always cooperate with your spirit, but we rest in the comfort knowing that your body is perfect now and your laugh is ringing through heaven sweet boy.  You are running with abandon, without care or hurt.  We weep because we miss our TEACHER, but we rejoice because you taught us so much, and because of that, "We can be.  Be and be better."

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Teacher Don't Forget Me...

My first trip back to the states is coming up on Saturday.  Over the course of the past couple weeks I have been preparing my students for our short sojourn from English classes, and here are some of the reactions and responses I have received--

“Teacher Cat, you are not allowed to go for ten days.  You can ONLY go for five days because we need you.”

“Teacher Cat, you are going for so long.  What will we do while you are gone?”

“Teacher Cat, don’t forget me when you leave because I will never forget you.”

“Teacher Cat, we will miss you so much while you are gone.”

“Cat, we need more people like you here.  Haiti needs education to be a better country”

“Will you bring more dictionaries and books back for us when you come back because we need to learn more?”

“Can you search for a book by Gandhi while you are in the states.”

One would think an inflated ego would come from all of the comments and questions.  Instead, each subsequent comment and question humbled me even more than the proceeding one.  I honestly cannot wrap my head around the responses to the new opportunity for education here.  How do I even begin to understand a desperate yearning for something that I’ve never had to go without, something that was simply expected of me in my youth?  I’m trying desperately to see these educational opportunities through their eyes.  I have left a system of compulsory education, a system that says everyone is guaranteed an education, a system that has started to breed apathy among some students because it is so compulsory and have come to a place where education is a rare commodity, a place where education is for the elite, only for those who can afford it.  The opportunities to impact change here through education are simultaneously inspiring and overwhelming.  I can see so much potential for change through education, but there are also times when I look at the situation and shake my head overwhelmed by it all.

As I sit and ponder and reflect on the task I have been called to here, and the existing situation in front of me in this small country village, I search through the words from other minds in response to the institution and opportunity of education:

Thomas Jefferson said, “Educate and inform the whole mass of the people…They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”

Aristotle said, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”

George Bernard Shaw said, “ Education can and should do much to influence social, moral, and intellectual discovery by stimulating critical attitudes of thought in the young.”

Edward Everett Hale said, “Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.”

And finally…

Kofi Annan said, “Education is a human right with immense power to transform.  On its foundation rests the cornerstones of freedom, democracy, and sustainable human development.”

Yes, these are just a sampling of thoughts regarding education, and not all thoughts regarding education are positive ones.  Education does much good, but at times it can also stifle, convolute, and harm.  It is extremely important for the mind to have an opportunity for a quality education, but the heart and spirit need educating as well.  To paraphrase and expand on what Aristotle said regarding education, if we fail to simultaneously educate the heart whilst we educate the mind, what an empty attempt at education that would be.  I do not take this opportunity placed before me lightly.  In fact, the immensity of it all, education of the heart AND the mind, scares me most of the time.  As I sit in my classroom here in Haiti while my students work diligently or stand before them during instruction, I carry the weight of the task.  This weight is not a burden though.  The paradox of this weight is in how freeing and light it truly is.  Haiti brings with it its own set of frustrations, but interestingly enough the frustrations here do not always weigh me down in the same way the frustrations of the classroom did back in the states.  As I look back on the past three years of my time in the classroom, I’m beginning to realize I was treading water, and that constant, redundant activity was becoming oppressive.  How freeing it is to be in the middle of God’s will and purpose instead of trying to make do with MY status quo of comfort and ease.

So…in response to the title of this entry, “Teacher Don’t Forget Me,” my dear, sweet, enthusiastic students, my heart will never forget you.  It will certainly not forget you in these ten days away from you, and it will not forget you even when my time here with you has reached its end, whenever that may be.  You have rekindled in me the passion for teaching.  Your enthusiasm and desire have reminded me of why I love being a teacher.  You may say thank you to me on a regular basis, but it is to you that I owe the thanks!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Dreams Deferred, Caged Birds, and Freedom

The lines of poetry from Maya Angelou's poem "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" keep running through my head after a long conversation with my Haitian friend Peter last night about educational opportunities in our respective countries.  His life long passion and dream has been to be a doctor.  He is in school right now (in an institute not a university) studying communication and French because the necessity to work and the schedule of classes coupled with the higher cost of the medical program does not allow him to chase his dream at this time, but because education is so important to him, he is still studying and learning even if it is not in his field of choice.  As we talked through all his possibilities for the upcoming school year, Maya and Langston's words were playing in my brain.  "A Dream Deferred" by Langston Hughes was on constant repeat for most of the conversation.

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

He has dreams.  He has hopes for his future.  He wants to see and impact change in his country.  He, like so many of my friends here and so many of my students in my English classes, wants to make a difference, but it seems like reality just keeps slapping them in the face.  I come from a country where people who didn't have a voice fought for a chance to have one--taxation without representation from an oppressive and distant monarchy that led to revolution, abolition of slavery, women's rights, The Civil Rights Movement, gender equality, marriage equality, immigrants, the poor and marginalized.  I have to work hard to remember times when I looked at a situation and thought, "I can't do this.  It won't work."  There were times when the work was hard and incredibly challenging, but I was never taught to live in a realm of impossibility because opportunity was always around the next corner.  The most heart breaking aspect of the whole conversation for me as I just sat and listened to him talk through his dreams paralleled with his responsibilities was the fact my life truly looks like a charmed fairytale in comparison, and my heart aches because of this.  My favorite quote from the whole conversation was when he said, "I know this will be difficult, but I will not say it is impossible."  In that moment I saw hope.  I know that nothing is impossible because I have a greater hope given to me by God that through Him all things are possible.  Peter has that same hope and sees that possibility lies within himself because God is in him as well.

The conversation continued.  We talked through possibilities and ideas.  The biggest difference was in perspective.  In my life I was taught to fight through obstacles to make things happen in my life.  Americans by nature (okay not all, but most) have that Puritan work ethic and spirit rooted deep in us.  We are taught not to back down from a challenge, to look for opportunity, to chase hard after our dreams.  We live by the American Dream.  We are called the land of opportunity.  We are like the free bird Maya Angelou talks about.  

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
Maya Angelou

The free bird leaps

on the back of the wind

and floats downstream

till the current ends

and dips his wings

in the orange sun rays

and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks

down his narrow cage

can seldom see through

his bars of rage

his wings are clipped
 his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings

with fearful trill

of the things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune
is heard 
on the distant hill
for the caged bird

sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze

and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees

and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn

and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams

his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream

his wings are clipped and his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings

with a fearful trill

of things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

for the caged bird

sings of freedom

So there we sat last night, a free bird and a caged bird, and the conversation continued.  We tried to see through each other's lenses of perspective.  I think that is the biggest challenge for me here in Haiti.  Although we both come from histories of revolutionary actions and thoughts, 1776 and 1804 respectively, we don't think the same, and we are constantly trying to look at the world through each other's eyes to gain a better understanding.  I feel like the revolutionary spirit has not been quenched in America, but in Haiti it has been buried so deep in oppressive dictatorships, lack of education, handouts, and poverty.  It is still here.  I know it is!  The spirit of what made Haiti Haiti, the revolution of the slaves, the first and only free black republic, that spirit is still here somewhere! 

Before I continue, I'll be the first to admit that I have not even come close to wrapping my brain around the educational and higher educational systems here in Haiti.  There are similarities, but the organization and the differences of the whole system are so immense that it is going to take some serious research time to figure it all out.  I want to try though.  I see in the eyes of the children and the young people (even the older generation) here the desire to learn, to expand their knowledge base, to have opportunities through education to make a difference in their country.  I have had the world at my fingertips my whole entire life.  I have had access to just about any book, poem, play, story, movie, documentary, etc. I have ever wanted to watch or read.  I wake up each morning and pray for guidance and strength to carry out the awesome responsibility God has given me here to educate.  I know that responsibility carries along with it the responsibility to be an example of Jesus lived out for them too. Guidance spiritually is of just a great import as guidance educationally, if not more!  I sometimes feel overwhelmed by it all, but then I walk into my classroom and see the smiles of my students and the eager looks on their faces.  I know then that we will walk through this together, and we are each walking through all of this with God by our side as well.  I don't want their dreams to be deferred, and I pray that they have opportunities to find their voices through education and His guiding spirit and then go on to educate others!  Right now I see in their eyes the eyes of caged birds, but my prayer is they will one day know what it is like to soar!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Childhood Game Meets Adult Catharsis

This past weekend I travelled to Austin to spend some much needed quality time with my friend Ann. Oh Ann-- the artistic genius that I get the privilege to call a dear, close friend, and although I could wax eloquently and long about how much her friendship means to me, I'm going to put my efforts into making an attempt at reviewing her latest theatrical performance.

Foursquare: An Amateur Review

I take my seat with a playbill in my hand, and little other than a brief, vague, teasing summary in my head. Yes, Ann ran lines earlier in the day in her room with another of the actors, Doug, but I purposely kept my ears out of hearing distance so as not to spoil the experience that is about to begin. On the black floor of the theater, a crudely, yet carefully, drawn chalk outline of a foursquare court sits empty under the stage lights. The intimate black box theater lights dim and slowly rise as three actors enter the scene.

Beverley, David, and Bill will raptly hold my attention for the next seventy-five minutes. The first thing I notice is Beverley is shoeless and wearing a man's sport coat much too large for her small frame.  Well, this screams symbolism to the English teacher in me. These feet are bare for a reason (vulnerability?), and this coat has to be more than a coat (protection?). Or are they? In my mind they are more, so I go with it. Everything is playful as the piece opens, reminiscent of the childhood game of foursquare. All the characters win me over with their introductions and opening dialogue. By the end, I will simultaneously hate and pity one, want to save one, and hope against all odds the remaining one can actually save the one I want to save myself.

As the story unfolds, the game intensifies and thank goodness for Bill. When the battle of emotions and painful memories that is raging between Beverley and David reaches the multiple fever pitches throughout the play, Bill, the stand up comic, appears under the spotlight to give the audience an awkward, deadpan delivery of much needed, non comedic, comic relief. The audience breathes again momentarily.

Debilitating disease and physical brokenness reflective of a deeper internal struggle, all-consuming, life-destroying guilt pushing a person to projected anger and violence, painful heartache holding on to the promise of another person to love someday, these are what shape the intricate and complex characters who dance with each other, sometimes hopefully and sometimes violently, within the confines of their foursquare court. As they dance and wrestle, the chalk lines blur and smudge. The lines that were so carefully drawn in the beginning change into messy smudges. Lives cross, stories are interwoven, and just like life, the details are convoluted, and they even change as they are retold. The mess of the lines of the court reflects the inner workings of the characters themselves. They are no longer three strangers. Their story lines have crossed. Life happens in the in-between, where the mess of their lives causes the smudges, blurring the lines we try so desperately to keep straight to protect ourselves from our own messes and the messes of others.

Foursquare--I keep coming back to the title, the childhood game, the action playing out in front of me. This is the game as the play starts. We all play games. We know the rules. The game of foursquare, so seemingly innocent and childlike on the surface, yet so symbolic of how we live our lives. Make it to the top square. Eliminate the competition. Use manipulation and trickery to get to the top. Life, love, childhood games, the venues change, but somehow we keep playing by the same rules. It's no wonder why so many people end up damaged, bearing the scars of trying to play the game. Thankfully though, despite heartache, despite betrayal, despite the emptiness of our decisions or the decisions of others, despite whatever curveballs life may choose to throw our direction, most of us stay in the game. Some of us choose to leave the game on our own terms to make amends for past betrayals. Those of us who choose to stay and play do so because, like Bill and Beverley, we hope that someone will be out there who wants to dance in the midst of the game, that someone will be out there who wants to cross the line, step into our own messiness and be in our square with us.

Monday, January 30, 2012

"Sonnet XXX" from Fatal Interview by Edna St. Vincent MIllay

Edna St. Vincent Millay lived hard and recklessly. There wasn't much this woman didn't try during here lifetime. She lived a life of experimentation, poetic and not. If you ever get the chance, her biography Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford is definitely worth the read. The story of her life was difficult to delve into at times because of the extreme contrasts between her highs and lows. One of the most interesting things about her, as well as many who are true poetic artists, is the amazing juxtaposition of her rebellious, reckless life and her technical and precise approach to her poetry,  In Fatal Interview, she crafts 52 sonnets.  The sonnet finds its beauty in the restraint and technical precision needed to craft this type of poem. It is often easy for my students to recognize the technical qualities of a sonnet, but today it was so much fun to get them to dig deep into the artistry of her diction and figurative language and her themes. Here is the text her poem, "Sonnet XXX" or "Love Is Not All."

Sonnet XXX from Fatal Interview

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain; 
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink 
And rise and sink and rise and sink again; 
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath, 
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone; 
Yet many a man is making friends with death 
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone. 
It well may be that in a difficult hour, 
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release, 
Or nagged by want past resolution's power, 
I might be driven to sell your love for peace, 
Or trade the memory of this night for food. 
It well may be. I do not think I would. 

The best part of class today was to see the classes split into two pretty distinct factions. There were those who really "got it." I don't mean they understood the poem. I mean they were able to truly immerse themselves into what the speaker was saying about love. In their own young understanding of love, they truly felt the words of the speaker. We had some good discussion. They stepped up and dug deep. In regards to the speaker, I love how she sets it up as if she is going one direction, flips it, then heads in the completely opposite direction. At first, love is not everything, it does not have the power to sustain life as food, drink, sleep, and shelter do. Love is non-essential. BUT or as the speaker says, "Yet," existence is an empty death-like experience without love. When humans live lacking love, there is no real life. Even in the midst of absolute despair or the depth of need with no resolve or extreme anxious restlessness or starvation, the speaker would not be willing to trade love or the memory of one particular night for any of the things that love was NOT in the beginning of the poem.  Let us remember this. Let us love. Let us not live lives that are tomblike and lonely and empty. Let us reach out and sustain and love one another.