August 2017   

Friendships - A Series of Stories Worthy of Sharing
There's a process to growing a friendship. It starts when strangers become acquaintances. Some acquaintances become friends. And once in awhile, those friends - nurtured by love, honesty, laughter, tears and life itself - become forever friends. They change one another, moving both forward, making both better at being human. Such shared stories enrich all of us. Here, Diane Diane Douiyssi (Bloomington, IL) writes about friend Valerie Mercurio.

Walking Each Other Home

I no longer remember the days when I didn't know you, Valerie. When I look back prior to 2003, I have to remind
myself that, right, I didn't know you back then. You grew so seamlessly into my life that I can't imagine what I'd be like if I'd never met you. I'd be a lesser person though, for certain, one who tended to see life in terms of what couldn't be done instead
Friends Diane
and Valerie
 of all that is possible. But lucky for me, I did meet you. 

You were such a giver. You gave freely of so much to so many people. You gave your time and expertise, your organizational tips. You gave fashion advice, pep talks, purse-buying strategies, and child rearing help. You gave great movie reviews, fun articles to read, and shopping bargains. Simply put, you gave yourself to others, and we loved you for it. You had the ability to make each person in your life feel uniquely, singularly special, like you had all the time in the world just for them. You were such a strong quiet force of calm, you drew people to you. As a former boss of ours said about two weeks after you started, "Thank God for Valerie. If the building were on fire, she'd just go over to team, calmly tell them all to pick up their bags and walk them to the door." 

Although you seemed quiet to some, you were also a defender of the authentic, a champion for getting others what they needed, and the voice of those who had less. You once told me you were a people collector, that people fell into your life and you tended to hang on to them. Judging by the number of us who mourn your loss, that is truer than I ever realized at the time.

My friend, you taught me how to love life, to find fresh happiness and, most importantly, to believe in and pursue your dreams. And you are still teaching me - to appreciate every moment and every dear person in your life, because you simply don't know how long you will be graced with that person's presence. You always told me you liked to be prepared, so then you would know what to expect. Although we all would have expected we'd miss dearly you when you left, none of us was prepared to lose you so soon. Ram Das (American spiritual teacher and author) thought that when all was said and done, we're all just walking each other home. So I hope you rest well, my dear friend. I'm glad you're home, and I'm so glad I had the chance to walk with you. 
Valerie died Sept. 8, 2015.

If you wish, please send a story or poem about your own friendship journey. If it appears here, you won't receive a monetary reward (Words is truly non-profit). But sharing your journey is a gift to others and reason enough to write. Put "Friendship" in the subject line. Include your name, city, state and a photo. Send to: 

The Internet and Our Brains

Sam Sacks wrote in his Wall Street Journal column, "The average human attention span [has] dropped to eight seconds, shorter than that of a goldfish." He was commenting on remarks made in Nicholas Carr's best-seller, The Shallow: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.

He says our "attachment to phones and computers is actively re-wiring our brains, strengthening our capacity to mentally multi-task but diminishing our ability to sustain focus for prolonged periods."
Sacks says he used to find it easy to immerse himself in a book or lengthy article, but "that's rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration starts to drift after a page or two." 

Greetings from Mary Kay Shanley

Truly, this is fodder for growth and learning. Do the Write Thing Challenge is an initiative of the National Campaign to Stop Violence, a non-profit, non-partisan, organization committed to reducing youth violence in our communities. Each year, 100,000 middle school students participate in classroom discussions about violence, with some also choosing to enter writing competition. The winners, two "national ambassadors" from each participating jurisdiction, are honored at a recognition ceremony in Washington, D.C., in July. One of them, Keely Miyamoto, is an 8th grader at Eagle Rock (CA) Jr/Sr High School.  

By Keely Miyamoto

A hero in villain's clothes
Baggy shorts
Plain white tee
A vivid portrait
We all have our prejudices
We all hate those
Perceived wrongdoings or existing
We all are ignorant
He strives to leave bonds behind
Never forgets his roots
Still breaks free
Finishing high school
Years late
Getting his driver's license
So no more petty court appearances
Still we hate
Keely Rhodes Miyamoto
Keely Rhodes Miyamoto
He gets a job - silkscreen-
In a safe neighborhood
Removed from influence
The control of gangs
He's beyond that
Provider for his family
Two kids
So they might not live in this world of violence

Just children
They were in the yard
That day day when two shots
Nearly ended everything
This page wiped away
No need
It's gone
Out the car window and into the yard
Months of physical therapy ensue
Time from work
And school
Life put on hold
Rewind, repeat
The image never fades
Etched into the children's minds
Scarred by the image
Their father's blood
Seeping from body to grass
But don't blame the gang
The neighborhood
The family ties
Realize we lack proximity
And dwell still in the House of Fear
We know only the headline
The bullet
Not the years of influence
Or lack of opportunity
We the privileged
Don't fear for our lives
I cry myself to sleep
Shook to my core
My little world turned upside down

This man
Not my father
Related by love
Not blood
At the end of the day
I live
My box nowhere near this place
I need not worry
Sleep comes
He heals
But what will tomorrow bring
For 5 year old son
A gang?
A gun?

Find compassion
Find the will to break the cycle
Reach out
Of your box

Just love

Edgar for his children
Chooses the House Of Love
Each day
Will you chose the same
For him?
A teacher encouraged Keely to enter the competition this spring. "I wanted to write a poem that would be impactful for me," Keely says. "Edgar has been a family friend for a long time. He was a high school student when my mom (Shanley Rhodes) was the principal. I held Edgar's son when he was just a baby. So what happened to Edgar had a big effect on me."
To learn more about Do The Write Thing Challenge program: