Monday, February 24, 2014

One Author's Book Tour, Another Girl's Inspiration

To praise his work would be redundant, and although he definitely deserves to be written about (again) and his work complimented and taken in the highest regard, I will not be filling this post with what most people write about (I think) after they meet one very inspiring author.

As some people know, Mitch Albom just visited the Philippines. On February 23, 2014 (that's today, as I write this down), he graced Ayala Center Cebu with his presence. We all know Mr. Mitch. We know his books and have read them, so like I said, I won't dwell on that.

What I will talk about is the conversation that ran through my head during the, what, two- to three-hour wait. The question I had to answer was this: "What should I say to this author that would actually make an impact?"

My musings went like this:

Hi, Mr. Mitch.
Hello, sir. Thank you so much for being a writer.
Thank you so much for choosing to be a writer and being an awesome one.
Hello, sir. Thank you for choosing to be a writer instead of some other profession like a lawyer or businessman.
Hello, sir. Thank you for being a writer.
I hope you continue writing books.
Thank you for using your gift to . . .
Thank you for using God's gift to you for the people.
I hope you continue to use God's gift to you.
Thank you for sharing God's gift to you to the people.
I hope you continue to share God's gift to you to the people.
I hope you keep writing books that will at least make people believe that there is a God.
You truly are a blessing and a miracle.
You are a blessing and someone's miracle.
You truly are a blessing and indeed a miracle to many people.
You are a miracle. You are not an accident.
You are someone's miracle.
You are indeed a miracle for someone in this world.
Thank you for sharing your talent in this world.
Are you a Christian?
Do you believe in Christ?
Will I see you in heaven?
When the time comes, will I see you in heaven? I just want to know that you are using your gifts for eternal value.
Can you encourage me?
Can you encourage a frustrated writer to finish writing a book?
Can I ask you to encourage me to actually finish writing a book?
Do you have any advice for frustrated writers like me?
Do you have tips on being a writer?
Do you sleep? (As I was mulling over this question, I realize how stalker-ish it sounds.)
How many hours do you still get to sleep?
How many hours do you give to writing your novels?
When you write, do you also lose yourself in it that you forget what time it is?
Do you write all the time?
Do you have advice for writers with a day job?
Thank you for making a difference in this world.
Thank you for making a dent in this world.
Thank you so much, sir. God bless you.

I finally decided on what I would say.

Hello, sir. Thank you for being such a good writer. I hope you continue to share God's gift to you to the people. Can you encourage me to actually finish writing a book? Thank you so much, sir. God bless you.

So there. I've decided. As you can see, I edit myself a lot. I edit what I say in my head. That's probably why I don't talk as often as I used to and when I do talk impromptu, someone always ends up misunderstanding what I say. Unedited thoughts are dangerous. Editing words already said can be even more excruciating.

Anyway, I rolled those words around in my head for a couple of hours. Then I thought, Hmm, maybe asking for advice isn't appropriate here. I mean, let this day be about him. About his achievements. About the influence of his work and his charities. So I revised it, removing the "encourage me" part.

In the end, what happened was this:

Me: Thank you for being a writer, sir. You're truly a blessing.
Mitch Albom: God bless you, honey, for saying that.

A few seconds in the presence of someone who has used his voice to change lives. And indeed, in that one line, I got the advice that I wanted.

I imagined that he would say "Quit" (because Hemingway said writers don't read other writers' work because they'd get jealous) or "Just keep writing" (because that's the easiest and really most common thing to do). I also thought that he might say something really inspiring that I'd sit in front of my laptop the whole night just writing until I publish something. But I got the advice I guess I needed.

"God bless you, honey, for saying that."

You know what I think? Although he may just have said that because that's the right thing to say, what I got was that saying things that can bless other people is the way to go. And he's right if that's what he meant. I understood that there is more awesome when you say things that will bless people than when you ask them to bless you. There is more depth in writing about helping people and indeed writing to help people rather than writing for personal gain. And even more, "for saying that" felt like "just keep writing" but heavier. It was heavier because what he said was what would be said if I actually finish writing. It was a "result" that he gave me, not the process. And I thank God for that.

Dear Sir Mitch Albom,
You are an awesome author. And you are blessed with a lovely wife who supports you so much. I hope that you will be blessed more so that you can bless more. All things are His and you are His creation. Yes, there is a God.
Have an amazing time writing more, sir!

To the rest of the world, there should be more books that don't just talk about superficial things. We should be reading more things that make us think. And I admit I've only really read Tuesdays with Morrie (and that was a rather traumatic experience because of circumstances not entirely related to the book), but I believe that a person as influential as Mitch Albom can produce such quality work that even those of us who haven't really dived into his books would want to dig right in. Yes, I'm promoting his books . . . also because I just love promoting reading.

Reading is awesome. Have fun!

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Love Story

Once upon a time, a man died for the woman he loves. Yes, sounds tragic, doesn’t it? Sounds like a Nicholas Sparks novel. But in this day and age, that’s what it means to love, isn’t it? To be willing to give up everything, including your life, for the one you love.

Well, this man died. But first, he loved.

He loved extraordinarily. It was almost insane. Normal people would likely choose who they love. Normal people would have standards that are more likely impossible to meet. Normal people do not easily give up everything for someone who doesn’t even seem to notice them. Normal people. But he wasn’t normal, no. He wasn’t normal at all.

You see, he loved a woman, like men ought to do. You could say the lyrics “I knew I loved you before I met you” applied to him. He loved her way before they met, way before she even knew he existed. He loved her in the most profound way. What way is this?

Well, have you ever tried loving someone who ignores you? Someone who intentionally does things to annoy you? This was a woman who may very well end up an old maid if she didn’t get her act together or a battered wife if she wound up in a very destructive relationship. Vices—you name it, she’s done it. She would be a bad girl in the truest sense of the epithet.

But she wasn’t all bad, of course not. She had good moments too. She could laugh. She could have fun. She sometimes helped people. She had her good girl moments. But that’s just it. Moments.

Now when you say love, we often directly assume that he’d fallen for her. Well, let’s get this out straight: Who in the world would fall for a girl who has expressed a unique desire to rebel against your every wish? Okay, maybe there are some people out there, but really, in all honesty, that’s got to be a choice, right? So there, he didn’t fall for her. He chose to love her.

He chose to love her, and love her he did. He wanted what’s best for her. He took care of her, protected her. He was her knight in shining armor, even though she never noticed. Pretty much every clich├ęd description of a lover.

In most love stories, there would come a turning point for the girl wherein she’d realize that the man existed and that she actually loves him too. In this love story, well, in worldly terms, she’d found this out too late.

He died. I think I’ve established that well enough already. But why did he die?

Here comes the supernatural part of this love story. When someone as vile and despicable and dirty, or even someone who just thinks a little bad deed won’t hurt, decides to live vicariously from the rules, logic tells us that the person will eventually, ideally even, be punished. Consequences, we call them. And sure enough, this woman, this beloved, was en route to such a punishment as death. Death. Really.

At this point we’d still wonder why the man loved her. “Come on! She’s not good for you!” or “He’s just being stupid” we’d say. But the man persisted.

How the man knew this woman’s acts would be punishable by death is an eternal mystery. The point is, he knew and he did something about it. That’s what lovers do. They do something about things.

So on the day of the woman’s judgment, the man stepped onto the platform and argued her case. Was he a lawyer? Was he a politician? Was he related to the judge in any way? He admitted to the judge that the woman was guilty. Well, there goes love. Thanks a lot for defending the woman (insert sarcasm here). He told the judge everything she had done.

Obviously, as I said, she was sentenced to death. But the man, ever the savior of his beloved, struck a deal with the judge. A deal so impossible, so simple, so completely out-of-this-world incredulous that no one in this day and age would ever just accept without being overwhelmed by the profoundness of such act.

He took her place. That’s why he died.

The end. 

Or is it?

You see, some people offer love to their boyfriend or girlfriend only until the point where they get what they want (we’re hoping this means marriage although people generally think of other things). Some people offer love to the spouses only until death parts them—some, can’t even wait till then. Some people offer the moon, the stars, the sky. They offer things and riches and fame. They “offer” their lives to the one they love. And yes, some even die just to prove it. And that’s what we think real love is. When someone is willing to do everything for us. What, like slaves, you mean?

Words of love offered in a moment of breathless exuberance, in that moment of passion, may or may not mean anything. This is me being cynical. Words of love offered in one’s right mind, with logic and reason backing up every claim, may or may not mean anything either. This is me being realistic. But words of love offered in defense of a woman condemned to die, nay, an act of true love displayed in the face of death?

Okay, so death proves love? No. Consider why he died.

Now is it the end? What happened then? Love stories don’t just end there, do they?

The woman lived. She continued living. Did she stop being bad? Did she acknowledge the sacrifice the man gave? What do you think?

Well, it doesn’t matter, does it? He’s dead, so what’s the point?

Au contraire, mon ami. Supernatural, we called it. The man did not just die. The man lived again. And that quite changes everything, doesn’t it?

Does the woman love him back now that he’s alive? Or does she continue to be bad?

You see, living again brings hope, doesn’t it? Living again gives us the impression that they could love each other finally. That the man’s efforts would be worth it (heck, he died!). So what does the woman do?

This is a love story. It’s not written in the most entertaining way. It’s not in proper chronological order. It’s not even telling us anything about how it ends. Why?

We are the woman. You, me, man, or woman. You, random person reading this blog, be ye a man or woman, you are this woman. Sure, you don’t have vices. Sure, you’ve been a good person. Sure, you think no one’s ever professed that they’d die for you and actually gone and done it. But you are that woman.

You are that woman because at one very early point in this earth’s existence, someone loved you. Someone knew you. Someone saw everything you would ever be and everything you would ever do. Someone took the time to get to know you, to see who you would turn out to be. Someone loved you enough that when he found out you would die in the end because of what you’ve done, he decided to save you. Yes, save. He decided to die instead just so you would live. Does it sound absurd? Yes. Did it really happen? Yes.

And the point now is, what do we do about it? What do you do about it? What do you do if someone loves you enough to die for you? Loves you enough to come back and pursue a relationship with you. Because that’s all he’s ever wanted, really. You.

This love story hasn’t ended yet. This love story lives on in each person’s life. What will you do about it? Will you love him back?

John 3:16, it's all there.