Some people only need to be lent a single sentence to captivate us for some kind of tiny eternity.
There are days when we find ourselves only two feet away from a body that will have us ripping clocks from the walls just two hours later, wishing we could chuck the ticking things from the highest of skyscrapers. Make Time Stop.
It can happen every day if we allow it to, if we believe the world is something to be entranced by, like the librarian with the purple-rimmed glasses.
Sitting Patiently. Legs-Crossed. Hands in Lap. Waiting in Awe for the Pages to Turn.
These Words. They are dedicated to One. One Who Captured Me With a Single Sentence.
She had a way of making her words latch on to one another like Children Atop the Creamy Clay Pueblo Storytellers.
“There are some books I cling to because they are indispensable…” It was all she needed to write in her tattered diary for me to know she was a writer, and a good one at that.
Her selection of favorite classics– from the Rilke volumes to Alice in Wonderland– left me wondering if my own diary had begun 60 years ago or so. Her words made me ache. Her appreciation for life caused me to stare at the diary for ten minutes, every one of the 6,000 seconds scampering to the forefront, all wanting a glance. None wanting to find their Secondly Selves wasted.
I traced the outline of her black and white portrait and forgot for a moment where I was standing. In the middle of the United Nations’ Main Lobby. Surrounded by an extraordinary commemoration for the women of the Holocaust. Lured by the life and telling of Helene Berr, a young woman who died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp just five days shy from Liberation’s arrival.
It wasn’t merely her knack for prose that swept me away from my afternoon’s work to sneak peeks at her not-so-private diary.
It was the reason she wrote that caught me.
Perhaps the very reason why any of us should sharpen a pencil, open a new word document or pick up a pen and decide to Say Something.
She kept a diary throughout the Suffering Times of the Holocaust, during the times that some still don’t speak for, for an image she drew in her head of her fiancé, Jean Morawiecki, holding the book of her confessions close to him when he could no longer hold her.
She Wrote To Leave Someone She Loved With Untold Treasures of Her Heart. She Wrote Only To Leave Someone with the Single Story.
Helene Berr, she was no Anne Frank. She carried no childlike anticipation within her that the sun would come streaming through the fences of the camp and nest in her curls as the liberation came. She knew all along that she would not make it. And so, she kept that diary for the man who would still need something to hold after all the tragedy seeped into his hands.
She had this chance to make a mark. And so she did.
I have often taken for granted my mobility and potential to leave a mark on this world. With an age of the Internet where it literally takes less than five seconds to imprint something that will stay forever, I take it for granted that one day, if someone is clever enough with a Google search, they will be able to find me.
I spent last January entrenched in the stories of Holocaust survivors, cascading the walls of the United Nations. Some wrote books. Others, like Berr and Frank, had diaries published. But it is a generation of people who are falling away to Old Age. To Life Lived. To years that swapped youthful skin for the whispering of wrinkles upon the faces of those they passed. And I find myself sitting and squirming, praying that we will pick up these stories and push them forward. Because they are Captivating. Because they come Packed with Teaching Moments. Moments that Teach Better than Textbooks. Better than Technology.
I am praying that we are all learning and understanding from these testimonies. Using them as a foundation to draft our own. To take nothing for granted. To leave no page without remnants of dabbled ink.
We have this crazy, crazy ability to leave a mark that will stay. To Imprint. To Stamp. To Collect. To Tell. With a few single Taps on a Keypad. To tell stories in a more permanent manner that those of the Holocaust, World War II and the Great Depression never had. And so it becomes our job to be storytellers, wouldn’t you say? To pick up stories that are close to being washed away by the tides of a paperback yesterday. To gear ourselves up with the Very Best Verbs & Adjectives to tell stories to the Next Generation.
It’s as if we’ve granted this Immense Potential. Immense Potential for some Remarkable Storytelling, if only we use it right. IIf Only We Use It Right.
It isn’t so much about sitting plugged into a computer all day concocting an internet persona that we envision will live on for lifetimes. It is plugging in after have lived it. It is going out into the world and doing Great Things, having Great Adventures. It is trying new things, being daring and excitable, wide-eyed like children seeking “Mama” in all the places around us.
Paying Attention to One Another. Staying Present to One Another. Not wishing away moments. Not always itching for the next chapter to begin.
It is living in the Here. Scooping up the Now. Finding ways to make the Present Moment blush.
And then recording it all for Our Children, for the Future. For those who will still want to hold us in the days when we can no longer be held.