I don’t mean my own writing, though when I got older I turned to it, too, for solace.
But other people’s writing, their stories bound together between stiff covers, reached out and pulled me into the safety of their black and white arms.
When there were no friends, when there were hardly even neighbors, when it got dark and scary, when I felt lost and alone…
Books were there–I wasn’t alone. Other people were right there with me. The author wrote for me, the characters were my travel mates and confidants. I could fall asleep to dream of adventure, of love, of dragons and of white knights.
Words, and the people who strung them together, gave me a place where I belonged, where no one judged me or chose me last. Where I felt like I really could be more than a kid on a rock in the desert with a book and badgers for company.
It’s still where I go for community, for understanding, for stimulation and retreat. Wordsmithing is what I do with my life, because I believe in the power of words to change lives. In books, in letters, in status updates and news stories. Words are immeasurably powerful, especially to a child.
I’m spending three days with a hundred different teenagers each day. Kids on the brink of failing their English exams. Kids who seem to look around, waiting for the next angry word, the next taunt, the next lash.
Kids who looked at me suspiciously when I said
I want to help. I so want to impress on them the power of stories. Of their stories. Of words put together in such a way it makes your heart race. Of a way words can help them instead of flay them.
It reminds me of this one, singly important thing: your words matter. Don’t ever stop using them.