A Poem I Like #4


A Poem I Like #4

Changes by Jacqueline Woodson

We sit on our grandparents’ porch,
Shivering already against the coming winter,
and talk softly about Greenville summer,
how when we come back,
we’ll do all the stuff we always did,
hear the same stories,
laugh at the same jokes, catch fireflies in the same mason ars, promise each other
future summers that are as good as the past.
But we know we are lying.

coming home will be different now.

This place called Greenville
this neighborhood called Nicholtown
will change some

and so will each of us.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Life is constantly evolving, and change is an inevitable part of being alive. So it’s a curious thing that we (including myself) struggle with transitions. We hold onto the present moment. We hold onto things as they are. And we support one another in that clinginess. I can remember times in my life(end of middle school, end of high school, end of college, end of grad school, end of track season, family get togethers) where we’d sit and reminisce about shared joyous experiences and promise one another an encore. It’s a mixture of self-deceit, fear, optimism, and gratitude.

“But we know we are lying”

Just as the children in Woodson’s poem are aware, we too know that we are lying—lying to one another and lying to ourselves. The inevitability of change is undisputed. Even if only at a subconscious level, we all recognize that people come into our lives and then they leave. We know that experiences are here and then they’re gone. Perhaps acknowledging this truth out loud makes the burden of life too heavy; it makes it painfully clear that we are ultimately always alone. We’re afraid of that reality.

In the same moment that we lie to ourselves we are also uttering a defiant truth. The promise of a joyous future together can come from the most hopeful parts of ourselves. It is the part within us that sees the inevitability of change and dares to defy it by sheer willpower. This defiance, too, is a sign. It shows our gratitude for whatever blessing we have witnessed in shared joyous experience.

Fear and gratitude. An age old rivalry. A timeless marriage.

I don’t pretend to know the appropriate balance of the two, however, I do believe it all comes down to accepting God. God is the epitome of mercy, the One who is always near to us, the One who tests us in different ways, the One that created us, the One that provides for us. Accepting these simultaneous realities of God, I think, makes it easier to tame our fear. Life will have challenges but there is necessarily a mercy hidden in every trial. There will be times we are alone but we are never without the company of the one being that can (and does) provide us with all that we need. Accepting the full reality of God makes it easier for us to recognize our inherent worth knowing the simple fact that the Lord of the universe is also the one who carefully shaped every aspect of our individual identities. It makes it easier for us to be defiantly hopeful because the joys of life are as close as an answered prayer away. We can’t abandon fear, and we shouldn’t blind ourselves with gratitude; but if we put both in the right place maybe change won’t be so difficult.

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