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"How I Will Inspire The World"
By Denise M. Janssen

     In the past 6 months, I have buried a cousin, only a few years younger than me. I have sat in a chapel with the doors wide open, watching as my best friend says good-bye to her brother. I have listened to news reports about a boy who was shot by cops as he ran towards them with a hairbrush, not a gun. I have heard my grandmother pleading, "Take me home. I want to go home," as she lays in bed after surgery on her hip. I have felt the cold hush of winter on the day she finally dies.

     How will I inspire the world?

     I will remember the kindness of my cousin Maria, who was the manager of a store that sold chocolates and sweets. I will practice kindness when a neighbor stops me in the middle of the sidewalk, the one whose daughter has ovarian cancer, lost her hair to chemo, and probably can't hold down her morning eggs. I will remember that all of us are lonely and looking for connection. I will stop what I'm doing, pet her dog Stitch, and ask, "How is your daughter doing? And how are you?"

    I will remember the words of my best friend Cheryl who said, "The sun rises in the east and sets in the west and may we be blessed to see it." I will lay my hands on the earth and feel the cold of the melting snow, the water that seeps through my fingers, and the sun that warms my face.

    I will try not to take my relationships for granted: my family, my friends, the cat who warms my bed, the God who touches my heart, and the one I have with myself. If it is true that all things are impermanent, then I will give my relationships time and attention.

    I will listen to my mother when she tries to give me advice,well meaning words that I sometimes dismiss but later prove to be dead on true. I will soften the corners of my heart and let her in, let us be.

    I will listen to the sounds of children playing and remember a boy who used to run, jump, laugh with his friends, and write poems, an endless series of rhyme. This boy they now call a statistic, another homicide, was a student at my school.

    I will be there in the morning when my 3rd graders come into the classroom and I will remember to call them by name: Hello Joshua, Chalil, Sojourner, and Brandon. Delahnie who dreams of playing professional soccer and Alanis who reads well into the night. I will remember the words of a poet called Langston who tells us to safeguard our dreams, hold on to them tight, away from the too rough fingers of the world.

   I will thank the little boy who shyly offers me a present: a mug that says thanks a million and a bottle of perfume for sitting with him at recess and listening to him read and telling him the words every student should hear: "Don't give up. You can do it. You're almost there."

   I will listen when they have problems: the end of a friendship, their parents' divorce, who said what about their dress. I will listen to their jokes, even the one about what happens to everybody when they eat beans for lunch. I will remember that childhood can be a slippery passage filled with moments of laughter, discovery, and joy but also times of struggle and hurt.

   I will apologize when I've hurt them, when I have been unkind so they will become adults who say words like, "I'm sorry. Let me explain. What can I do to make amends?" Words we need today for reconciliation and peace.

   I will try to be at peace with myself: what I have done and what I have failed to do. I will not find peace if I see my life as a series of gains and losses because the scoreboard will always change. Peace is found in the middle, in the living, in the choice to live after a series of losses: to celebrate Christmas after your grandmother dies, to laugh in the company of family and friends, and to live each day with love and purpose.

  This is how I will inspire the world.

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