In the summer 2020, my pastor asked if I wanted to participate in a theology camp. I wasn’t originally interested, but when I heard writing would be involved, my ears immediately perked up.
I’ve always loved writing. As soon as I learned to form words, I would try to place them into an appealing order. Talking did not come easily to me, and I remained frustrated from all of the words I was missing out on until the age of 3.
Since then, poetry, short stories and long chapters have appeared in my journals on a consistent schedule. My writing was and still is deeply personal. I don’t go sharing my work with just anyone I meet. For me, vulnerability is a difficult matter, one that I’m not well versed in. My experiences with so-called friends have left me unwilling to show my writing to prying eyes, and I’ve learned I would rather keep my thoughts private than shout them from the rooftops.
At the theology camp, I wrote a deeply sensitive article about sex education, a topic that is significant to me, and its importantance for young people. Not only was the article personal, it’s an extremely delicate and oftentimes provocative topic in church discussion. I turned it in without fully realizing others would be reading my work and didn’t think about it for many months after. Instead, with the few weeks of summer I had left, I spent my time watching “The Bachelor” with my sister and walking around my house in a pandemic daze.
By January the now-published article was a distant memory when Rose, a member of my congregation, called and left a voicemail. I didn’t call her back. She had found out about my article through gossip circulating through the pews of worship and had called to congratulate me on my courageous writing. She informed me of her plans to write to me.
A few days later, I discovered a handwritten letter waiting for me on my kitchen table. In cursive that I did not recognize, a woman explained she was a friend of Rose’s. My eyes cut across the greetings to find the words, “Rose died on Tuesday.”
Tightly clutching the thin letter, I sat down and cried, lost in shock and taken by surprise. Her friend shared that Rose had loved my article and was proud of my bravery to voice such a controversial topic.
Rose wanted to share this but never had a chance. I was the recipient of kind words and hope, yet I couldn’t stop the tears from streaming in painful and salty waves. I felt horrible. Here I was, so wrapped up in my own life I didn’t even think to check my voicemail. And now, I’d never be able to thank her for her kind words.
Rose didn’t have to call me. She didn’t have to read my article. And suddenly she was gone. She had taken time out of her day to recognize my ability as a writer, adding value to my strengths and encouraging my dreams. I guard that knowledge close to my heart every time I start to write.
Rose’s simple act of kindness made me understand, for the first time, the impact of my writing. She showed how it touches people’s hearts and minds, where the act of kindness can be revived and awakened. I may still be a private person, but I know now that writing is meant to be shared; shown to the world and made to inspire others.
I have a greater respect now for words and the effect they can have. I plan to continue to use my ability as a writer to make meaningful and lasting change in the future, and I will strive to create an impact with my carefully woven words every time I write.
Rose’s friend explained that Rose was always a big supporter of young people. She believed wholeheartedly that youth have a purpose: to make the world a better place. She understood the value of speaking up, the danger of staying silent.
Her Facebook page quoted Elie Wiesel: “Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
I now feel a deeper awareness of the world and the people inside of it. A woman named Rose inspired me in ways I could not have imagined. She reminded me of the power that writing can hold to inspire and influence people together endlessly.