Monique Melendez, the author of the following poem, was a former student in my junior religion class. Here is a copy of her original work:
I love Monique’s poem. I love its simplicity, straight-fowardness and strength. She reveals herself. Like the sweetest of melodies, her poem makes its way into the soul. Her easy words, without fanfare, speak a truth which ultimately tickles and urges the heart. With some simple strokes of her magical wand (pen), Monique shifts the ground and says YES to the messy and often painful realities of humanity and life. She invites us to seize the moment and truly live. There must be something extraordinary about life – – something that transcends inevitable pain – – something worth living for.
Monique opens her poem speaking of being in her shell, her tiny world. Right off, we can identify with her. The fear of popping our head out of our shell is prevalent among us human beings. We want to stay protected. Why venture out? It is safe in here. I, too, am that quiet boy who sits in the back of the classroom – waiting, shy, reserved, passive. I wonder how many young people in our classrooms feel frightened and anonymous.
An old friend would often remind me about how important the interruptions in life are. Don’t view them as disruptions and nuisances; rather see them as possible hidden treasures. Be ready for the unexpected. Let the interruptions of life call something forth in you. See them, not as an intruder to your plans, but as a longed-for guest. Monique did not know what to expect as she entered into my Loss, Grief, and Healing class, but she was open (even if ever so slightly) to something new. She welcomed the stranger.
It was after prayer and meditation that Monique was stirred up. Much has been said about prayer and meditation, but I go to the words of Mary Oliver in her poem The Summer Day:
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Meditation offers space and Sabbath – – a breather from the furious pace of life. It allows one to be at rest and to pay attention – – to really pay attention. Perhaps, only then, are you able to recognize your blessedness. You are now able to be playful and true – – to skip in the fields, be astounded by the puffy white clouds and deep blue sky, think through a challenging relationship with positive intention, and savor the freshness of the moment. You are enveloped in the vastness of life. You matter! You belong!
Monique was willing to take a chance. She displayed courage. Are you willing to be pulled out of your complacency? Who helps you see the world from different vantage points? Monique dared to ask such questions. She left the security of her shell and ventured to the top of my desk – – to the top of the mountain. She left her tiny world to see the big world. This journey to the mountain top is fraught with many dangers. You are now exposed to the elements. Someone may find you out (your true self). Yet, isn’t that what you are longing for? Are you not, at your deepest level, seeking to be discovered and loved? Are you not seeking to love others? Monique urges us to take such a journey. And yet, she is wise to know that one will have to cope with the inevitable pain that comes with authentic living and true love. Monique, in her poem, chooses love over fear. She opts to live fully. She’ll take it all. She’ll laugh a lot and cry a lot. She’ll love mightily and suffer mightily. And, I suspect, Monique would want it no other way.
On top of her poem page, Monique’s writes her name in bold and big letters. This is an important heading and starting point. Believe in your voice. Explore your feelings. Be real. Know where you have come from. Claim your name. Practice your poetry and unleash your magical powers.