I am a quote collector. Always have been. I kept a ‘quote’ notebook when I was a teenager, mostly recording lines from books I was reading at the time. I wish I still had that little notebook, but it was lost during one of my many moves/changes in life. These days I keep meaningful quotes I find in a file I keep on my computer. And, of course, the occasional sticky note.
I love quotes for a number of reasons. It’s comforting to me to know that even though a person is dead their thoughts are still alive. Quotes remind me that there have always been deep thinkers and dreamers, and I am amazed that words spoken or written hundreds of years ago could still be relevant today. Could have meaning for ME. Could speak to me directly as if calling through a time-tunnel.
When I come across a good quote, I often chew on it for many days, take my time, relish it. I came across a quote by Longfellow this week that stuck with me, “Give what you have to somebody, it may be better than you think.” I’m still chewing on it.
Maybe it’s because it speaks to my (and many others’) fear of not being good enough. Not believing my contributions have merit or will mean anything to anyone else.
We have no problem offering our material ‘stuff.’ How many loads of used clothes (holes and all) have we dropped off at Goodwill? They aren’t good enough for us anymore, but they are better than nothing for people who have nothing. It’s all relative, right? Surely they will appreciate our worn boots and dented pots and pans.
We never know who will receive our donations or if our discarded ‘stuff’ will help them, but we give anyway and assume the goods will end up where they need to go.
But when it comes to offering bits of ourselves, we aren’t so bold. We often keep our artistic and creative endeavors hidden for fear they won’t be good enough. We don’t speak up because we don’t think anyone will want to hear what we have to say. We don’t reach out to other people for fear of rejection, thinking we don’t have what they need or want.
This quote by Longfellow reminds me that we are the worst judges of our own value. How can I know if my writing will ever mean anything to anyone? It may not be perfect prose, but it may be what someone needs to read today. Or in two hundred years. After all, Longfellow had no way of knowing that his words would touch a middle-aged woman living in South Carolina in the year 2017. Who am I to judge what might speak to someone else?
I mean, how arrogant is that? What right do I have to decide what someone else might need or want? What might have meaning for them?
So I say go create something. Find your voice. Put it out there, into the world of hungry people. Give your art as freely as you give your tattered jeans. Contribute. Give what you have. Give your talents, your thoughts, your deeds, and trust your goods will end up where they need to go, will touch who they need to touch. After all, your contributions just might be better than you think.
K. Kris Loomis is the author of the humorous travel memoir, Thirty Days In Quito: Two Gringos and a Three-Legged Cat Move to Ecuador. She also writes adult parables and short stories as well as books about yoga and meditation. Kris is a determined chess player, an origami enthusiast, a classically trained pianist, and a playwright. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and two cats.
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