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Monday, April 25, 2016

A Finite Number of Words

I recently read a book called "The Mystics of Mile End" by Sigal Samuel, which is a beautifully written story of lives intertwined. It follows a Jewish community, specifically a young family whose loss of their mother has changed their relationships forever. The family is attempting to sort through their faith, grief, and the meaning of life.

One of the characters, Mr. Goodman, is a Jewish teacher and Holocaust survivor. Readers are given a glimpse into his relationship with his wife, whom he met before the war, was separated from and sent to different concentration camps, and later found again and married. The interesting thing about their relationship, however, is that they rarely speak to each other. This is because Mr. Goodman believes that people are only given a set number of words and once they have used up their words, they will die.


This is not a new concept to me. I have seen the movie "A Thousand Words," starring Eddie Murphy where this exact thing happens. He is told that he only has a thousand words left to speak before he dies. As he speaks, each word causes a leaf to fall off a tree that mysteriously grew in his backyard. When all the leaves are gone, his words are used up, and he will die.


Upon reading the book and reflecting on its connection to the movie's theme, I began to think. I am a teacher, a writer, a poet, a student, a wife, a daughter, a sister, and on top of that, I love to sing in the car. I speak A LOT of words in a day and can't imagine how many I will speak in a lifetime. Even as I am writing this, my natural instinct is to read the words aloud to make sure they sound okay.

BUT what would happen if we did only have a finite amount of words to speak before we would use them up and die? If we knew what our number was would we speak differently than if we just knew that someday we would run out?

Would I write as much, learn as much, sing as much? Would Brandon and I stop talking to each other as Mr. Goodman and his wife did? Would my teaching and relationships with my students be better or worse? Would my relationships in general be better or worse?

Some days I know that I should speak as if I only have a thousand words left. Some days, I speak carelessly anyway.  Maybe reading this story was a hint that I should talk less. Maybe it was just a coincidence. Either way, it made me think...

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