When I was younger, I wanted to be famous. What to be famous for? Some skill, a book, writing, performance? Who knows? Some as of yet unknown thing.
When I was even younger, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I fell in love with James Herriot and Animal Ark books, and I never looked back. I wanted to be necessary in that way. I wanted to contribute to rescuing animals, to reducing pain, to healing families.
And then I wanted to be a teacher. And I thought: better to be a vessel than a star. I’d love to be famous for not being famous. For helping to facilitate other people’s growth and success.
I want to be famous the way my grandfather was famous to me.
by Naomi Shihab Nye
The river is famous to the fish.
The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.
The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.
The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.
The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.
The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.
The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.
I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.
I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.
(Notes): A sense of curiosity about each other’s lives.
The deep attribute of poetry to pause, to look, to listen, to respect, to pay attention to variety.
I think a lot about empathy, one community to another. Paying attention with respect and curiosity to people who aren’t exactly like us.
Poetry can help us have a window into someone else’s experience, or loneliness, or difficulty.
Seeing often a kind of respect rising up (among kids) after someone describes something with an honest voice — what changes in the room.