Believe in yourself, even when all hope seems lost
Believe in others, even when they’ve given up on themselves
Believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel
Believe that you may be that light for someone else.
— Megan Morrison, Lessons for Life
“It’s National Poetry Month, and so I’d like to share a poem with all of you by Shel Silverstein.”
What? From my seat at the front of the large auditorium, my mind began to spin. National Poetry Month? Here I’d been rehearsing my speech for the last three hours — well, three days really — perfecting it to the point where I could sit in the audience just moments before with an excited smile, confident in the words I was about to share with the crowd as tonight’s guest speaker. The address describing my writing journey had everything… jokes, stories of my childhood, lessons and inspiration. But… National Poetry Month… I should’ve included Lessons for Life… MY poem!
I gave my speech — without a poem. I received laughs at all the jokes, claps at the lessons, and at the end, a rousing applause from all of the students, parents, and educators.
Afterwards, I wandered out of the auditorium to sit at the table with copies of my two books I’d brought with me, wondering if anyone would be interested in actually purchasing them. To my surprise and delight, 20+ people formed a line for a copy and an autograph. Many expressed praise for the speech, along with their excitement to read the books; one little girl, referring back to my story about an early piece of writing, exclaimed “I’m trying to get my parents to get me a dog too, just like you were! I’m just like you!”
“You keep trying, and don’t give up!” I told her with a laugh.
Another woman approached me with a heavier look on her face. “I’m really looking forward to reading your book,” she said, “as I’ve lost both of my parents in the past couple years.”
“I’m so sorry… I really hope it brings you some comfort.” She nodded, leaving me with an optimistic smile as she walked away. This is exactly why I wrote that book.
With a satisfied sigh, I began to pack up my things; between the speech and the book sales, the night had been a great success by all measures. Putting my purse on my shoulder and lifting the box of remaining books, a young teenage girl approached me. “Can I talk to you for a bit about your writing?”
“Of course! Would you mind talking with me as I walk to my car?”
During the ten-minute walk, she explained to me how much she’d been inspired by the fact that I wasn’t afraid to put myself out there with my stories. “How did you get to that point?” she asked.
“Well, it certainly wasn’t easy,” I told her. “It took me a long time to get past my fear of what other people would think of it. But once I realized the impact I could have, I realized the people who doubted me or didn’t like what I was writing just didn’t matter. It was all about the people I could help.”
In respect to this young girl’s privacy, I won’t share anything personal she told me, but let’s just say, she certainly had a story to tell, and I encouraged her to do so. “You may think your story is unique, too different,” I told her, “But you never know which part of it might touch someone, inspire someone, provide something someone can relate to as a part of simply being human.”
“Thank you so much,” she said, “that’s exactly what I needed to hear!”
At home that night, I pulled out that precise poem that had crossed my mind while sitting in the audience that night… the same poem that had inspired And Then It Rained.
Reading through it, I remembered why I had written those verses: I’d wanted to note all of the many lessons I’d learned from my experience with a former friend and idol. Perhaps more importantly, I’d wanted to capture the fact that one person — one single person — had changed my life in more ways than I could’ve ever imagined.
One person… I thought back to all of those people I’d talked to that night, and of course, that last teenage girl on the walk to my car. For the first time it occurred to me that the same reason I’d been inspired to share my story, had been the same reason I’d first started to write one. It was all about impact.
And finally, as I’d always dreamed, I was starting to have one.
Feeling even more confident and motivated at my speech the following night, I decided to share the last verse of that poem. “This verse reminds me both why I started writing, and why I continue to write,” I told the audience, pausing for a deep breath before I read the special words aloud:
Treasure each person who comes into your life
Remember each lesson that’s taught to you.
It only takes one person to change the life of another,
This poem is my proof.”
— Megan Morrison, Lessons for Life
The poem Lessons for Life can be found in its entirety in the chapter headings of And Then It Rained. The experiences that inspired them? Well… that’s the story.