I was seventeen years old the day I wrote the poem.
I remember that day well. It was one of those impressionable days, the kind that engrave themselves kindly inside of you. It was quiet — his class was always quiet — but that day was especially reverent. I went there daily, the obvious reason being because I was taking his course, the other because it had become my sanctuary. In those days I needed a safe place. I still do.
It was November, I think, and a snowfall had just begun outside. My seat was beside the window so I could see the flakes floating down and I was tired, yet wide awake. There weren’t very many serious writers in the class. Most of the kids were taking it because they thought it would be easy. I was taking it because I thought I might be found.
That’s usually why I write.
He started off the class in his habitual way, encouraging the use of the dash and the word ought. And then he said, just like he’d said all the days before, “And remember, when you write: write from what you know.”
It’s the best writing advice I’ve been given, unbeknownst to me at the time. Because I didn’t know a lot then, not really. I hadn’t experienced pain or trauma or heartbreak. I didn’t know how I could write from what I knew, when all I seemed to know felt so terribly uninspiring.
I did know words held power. I knew this because of how their power had affected me. There are words I’ve read in books that I could quote to you, words that have impressed themselves deep into the folds of who I am. They didn’t make me feel happy or sad, which is exactly why they stayed with me. They made me feeling something I’d never felt before.
Those are the kind of words I want to write.
I thought about what I knew, pondered what seemingly unimportant thing I could offer to this great world. I wanted my words to be grand and bold and impossibly profound. I wanted them to be remembered. I thought maybe those were the only words that mattered.
A week earlier I had written an essay. That day my teacher returned them to us. When he came to me, he smiled, sliding the essay closer. I leaned in to read the comment that was written near the top.
Aliza, it said, you have the heart of a lion.
I sat there for a long moment, staring at the red cursive that inked the papers. The words blurred in front of me. I didn’t feel lionhearted when I wrote. I felt shy and insignificant.
Those red scrawled words my teacher had written are now permanently embedded inside of me. When he wrote me that, the words I had written — the ones I felt lacked knowledge and poise and depth — suddenly mattered. I’ll never forget that. His words made such an impact in my life that I went home and wrote a poem about them. I think about his words often, even still.
He assured my worth that day, assured the bravery I didn’t imagine I had, assured the belief I think I knew all along: words matter.
I hope you trust me when I say this — there’s someone out there who will never forget the words you’ve given them.
Your words matter.
And so do you.
“Let the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing
in Your eyes, O Lord, my Rock and the One Who saves me.”
– Psalm 19:14
[linebreak]Leave a Comment
Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God says
You write beautifully and so full of expression for one so young…that, in and of itself, shows the heart of a lion! I’ll never forget my very first writing assignment being returned to me in college. In big red pen, it said C+. I was used to “A’s” in high school so this came as a painful shock. That C+, however, made me more determined to once again see an A in the margin. I still wonder if my words are only a C+?? Thank you, this morning, for the reminder that “someone out there will never forget the words I’ve given them.” We ALL need encouragement. Thank you for being my encourager this day!!
Aliza Latta says
Bev, your words are most certainly not just a C+. Every time I put a post out here on (in)courage I a) get super nervous and assume no one will read it and b) hope and hope and hope that YOU will comment. You are a natural encourager, and I know you have seriously encouraged all of us here. And that is no C+, my friend. You are a true example of how we here will never forget the words you have given us. So thank you, Bev, for consistently showing us examples of a lion heart, and of Jesus.
Beth Williams says
Your words matter!!! I look forward to reading your responses to these posts each day! You encourage me to keep going no matter the circumstance & to keep praying consistently and constantly!
Melanie Vanlaningham says
I love your post today! The older I get -the more I realize the truth of the importance of how we use our words. Words can fill us or words can empty us. Words can build up or tear down. These days there are more words than ever with technology/social media. What a huge responsibility we have to one another!
I have always loved to write. I have a suitcase full of journals spanning forty years. I’ve saved poetry that I wrote as a teen – pouring out my heart over and over. I love to collect uplifting and challenging quotes. I look for a new one each day to share with staff and students at the middle school where I am a secretary. Looking for words to help encourage, inspire, challenge us to live better; stronger yet gentler lives; to live with love and compassion.
Then there is the greatest “Word” of all that fills my life with love, truth, and purpose. Today I will choose my words carefully – not only the ones I speak, but also those I choose to rattle around in my mind.
Thanks again for your post. It has stirred my heart this morning!
Aliza Latta says
That’s a great point about social media! I also love that picture of the suitcase overflowing with your words and journals. I hope you don’t stop writing and sharing, Melanie.
How lovely. Words matter, for sure. And your words mattered to me this morning. Thank you.
Madeline Osigian says
So beautiful, Aliza! Thank you for your encouragement in prose and poetry.
What a beautiful post. What beautiful, true words.
Our words do matter and yes, there is someone out there who needs to hear our words.
Thank you for writing this. Perhaps today I will finally start writing the words I’ve been hesitant to write…for perhaps today, or tomorrow, or the day after, there is someone who needs to hear my words and will never forget them.
Aliza Latta says
I hope you do start writing those words, Amy. They’re so important.
Jeanne Takenaka says
Oh Aliza, such a high compliment your professor offered you! That feeling of writing from a place of insignificance? I get it. I’m learning though, that how I perceive myself and how God reveals me to others are often very different.
I so appreciate the reminder that words I offer others may just stay with them for a life time. What an exhortation to speak with grace and with care, and to allow myself to be the pen God uses to write words on my blog, on cards and through my actions . . . words that affirm and point others to Jesus. Thanks for this post. Just beautiful!
Mrs "T" says
My sweet Aliza (Starshine) :
You may be 20 but your spirit is 50. You are so wise for such a young lady. You are right about words and someone needing to hear them.
I am constantly surprised when someone repeats something I said a long time ago; how I (in)couraged them. My heart smiles.
As for your dear, sweet, warrior Mamma, we are rejoicing with her and the whole Latta family today.
God is good for sure. Love. ((hugs)) and prayers: Mrs “T” xo
Aliza, your words encourage in so many ways. I have felt moved to volunteer at my local high school, to give those teens more feedback on their writing. My goal was to help them grow as students, but you have shown me my feedback could be so much more. I will continue to approach this calling with prayer, hoping I can encourage not just students but hearts as well.
I love this and am so new to your art and your words, but I am loving every one of them! Thanks for sharing… and for stepping in and stepping up and growing into that Lion Heart… I suspect others saw it in you too, before you could see it in yourself! Aslan is funny like that!
Beth Williams says
You write so beautifully! You do have the brave heart of a lion!! I wish I could craft words as easily as you do! God has gifted you with a tremendous talent! You are using it to glorify Him!
Flower Patch Farmgirl says
So poignant and poetic.
I just adore you.
This is a beautiful post. You DO have the heart of a lion. Keep on writing.
God bless the one who “assured your worth” that day.
And this: “there’s someone out there who will never forget the words you’ve given them.” I know this to be true. And I pray that I can give this kind of encouragement to others.
Beth Coulton says
Love this- thank you! I often think and feel just as you did – most times I feel terribly uninspired, and think “What do I have to offer?” But that attitude shows that I am limiting God. God can offer through me- and my words- things I cannot even think or imagine. And it’s really not up to me how or where my words go. It’s up to Him.
Becky Shillington says
This is so beautiful! Thank you for sharing such a meaningful moment with us. I think it is wonderful that a teacher made such an impact, and I love the idea that our words will impact someone, someday, too!
I so love the comment from your teacher and how it impacted your heart..thank you for sharing…if your words encourage even one person, you can not know how far that will go, you are the proof. Beautiful.
Velma Roessner says
Aliza so insightful as to the power of words. Our words whether spoken or written are powerful. Such a huge responsibility as believers as we give words of life to those around us. Thanks for YOUR beautiful words.