At first, a 4th grader’s letter sat with me softly. Days later, I couldn’t shake his wisdom. This student wrote to Emily Dickinson regarding her poem “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers” and shared: “At first, Ms. Dickinson, I didn’t know what to make of your poem at all.”* Apparently, he read it again and again until the words resonated. Everything “clicked” when he focused on the physical properties of the feather.
I want to take his concrete lead, “A feather’s true core is strong.” Yes, I thought. Perhaps a marrow of some sort attaches to the center—the strength. This tough interior doesn’t deem the ends as just fluff. The outside of the feather’s resistance to water, wind, strength and nature’s elements is more than I can say for my wardrobe.
Conceptually, however, clothing myself in feathers offers some flight. Despite the world’s warnings to “remain strong”, I wonder about keeping intentional softness on the exterior. As a sensitive soul I’ve felt criticized and embarrassed by uninvited tears. Whether I like it or not, tears are my default to any strong emotion. When I’m sad, angry, truly delighted, frustrated…I feel tears rising.
However, like a feather, I’d like to think that softness of surface stems from a tough and solid core. Unfortunately, the opposite explanation remains prominent. I can’t count the times I’ve heard, “You gotta be tough on the outside for people to take you seriously.” But what about when we are encouraged to seek and remember our inner beauty and not let outside appearances rule us?
Of course, like most things, feathered-balance becomes essential. Jobs, speeches, and fill-in-the-blank “adulting” require situational demeanor. However, even in those bigger situations, I take insight from the 4th grader’s reflection: “I thought—would I ever hurt a baby bird? I quickly knew the answer, no I would not.” He recognized his protective instinct linked with hope and continued, “Hope is a fragile thing that must be protected, yet it gives everyone endless bravery…” In turn, I connected his profound words with a friend’s reminder: “anything worthwhile deserves deep thought and protection.”.
In courageous, Brave Tutu efforts, how can protection and “feathered clothes” co-exist? In our hard-surfaced world, does anyone have this authentic method mapped? I lack answers and welcome suggestions. For now, I’ll cradle my core, true pieces so they may soar in their own right. How can you HOPE to do the same?
Your Brave Tutu (You’re Brave Too-Too)
* These are not direct or confirmed quotes from the student. To keep his privacy, I will not list his name or information. However, the impression he left remains. Therefore, I wanted to share his bravery of thought.