Right sentence is worth 1,000 words


“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”—Ernest Hemingway

 

It’s been called many things. Karma. Serendipity. Fate. Coincidence. Personally, I prefer “the power of action.”

I don’t know how common this is, if I’m one of a million more people who find things at the exact moment I need them, or if I’m singly being tapped on the shoulder.

I should clarify that. By “find,” I don’t mean stumble upon. I mean making a choice that moves me in the right direction. And by “things,” I don’t mean possessions. I mean (figurative) tools.

My daughter asked me tonight what had happened to the tiger background she had put on my computer desktop. Last week I replaced it with the Hemingway quote above, which I found on a writing blog. Just some words, nothing fancy. Apparently not as dramatic to the eye as a tiger.

“They’re just words,” she informed me.

“Words can be better than pictures.”

“I don’t think so.”

Knowing better than to start a “yes they can/no they can’t” debate with a kid at 9:30 on Sunday night, I let it go.

So I’ll say it here. Yes they can.

For someone who knows this fact, I’m kind of a slacker. I’m a hound. I love words: books, magazines, Web sites. I’m a hound. The words themselves and the magical order they are arranged into are sometimes better than the stories.

Maybe I appreciate and rely on printed words because I’m not as good with them verbally. I know what they’re capable of, I’ve experienced it. But what are just as strong are words that aren’t said. What we’re feeling isn’t necessarily obvious, no matter how deeply we’re feeling it.

I’ve recently been reminded of that. For a collection of reasons, I’ve held my tongue when I should have done the exact opposite. And isn’t it ironic that the tipping point for me was a piece of paper with some words on it.

The other day, I read a short story about a woman who sent a small donation to an acquaintance who was having a rough time financially. A few months later, after never hearing a word back about the money, she ran into the recipient. The woman inquired and was told, “Oh, yeah, I got that. I just hadn’t had time to cash it.”

She felt unappreciated and wondered about the nerve of some people. She sent money she really didn’t have to send to help out this gal and that’s the thanks she gets.

Ungrateful…selfish….

But then, she realized she didn’t send it to get a pat on the back. She sent it because it was the right thing to do at the time. The moral: Give without strings. And give thanks for what’s given to you.

So, I am doing that. The day I was confronted by someone close to me who felt unappreciated is the day I read this story. It’s from a devotional book I try to read regularly. But I had missed a few days. For some reason, I pulled it out of the drawer and that’s the page it fell to.

I had been thinking how unappreciated I felt. I had spent the morning grumbling to myself and numbering all the things I have already done for this person. Haven’t I done enough? Isn’t it somebody else’s turn?

Then I read the story, which at some point in the author’s past, I truly believe, was written for me to one day—this very day—read.

Turns out it’s still my turn to say thanks. Then I need to figure out how to stop keeping score.

And today, that’s the truest sentence that I know.


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