Say What You Need To Say (Two Lessons From Mary Oliver)


Mary Oliver
Image: With a black background behind her, Mary Oliver is wearing a black turtleneck and smiling. I found this image here.

Last year, I participated in a Poem Exchange. It was lovely.

A college student in my community sent me an email inviting me to this Poem Exchange. It’s structured in such a way that friends of friends end up emailing you poetry. I received poems in my inbox from people I’ve heard about and people who were complete strangers to me.

In the midst of that Poem Exchange, someone sent me this gem from Mary Oliver:

“Moments” by Mary Oliver

There are moments that cry out to be fulfilled —
like telling someone you love them
or giving your money away, all of it.

Your heart is beating, isn’t it?
You’re not in chains, are you?

There is nothing more pathetic than caution
when headlong might save a life,
even possibly, your own.

-Mary Oliver

This is a stunning, simple, headlong call to action, and I find myself thinking of two important life lessons.

Lesson One:
This is the kind of poem that speaks straight into particular situations in our lives. Do it. Say what you need to say. Act in ways you need to act. You can do this.

Lesson Two (my even larger take-away from this poem):

As soon as I received this, I thought, “Goodness… I wonder… How many specific situations has this poem has spoken straight into? Straight toward? Experiences and stories that even Mary Oliver herself could not have anticipated?”

So I found myself pondering this also…

Speak the larger message you need to speak. Put it out into the world. Write the post. Create the art. Embody the dream. Lean into the collective. Release it into the community. Sow the seeds. Express the possibility.

Because… you don’t know who will hear you and how they will hear you…

I know this experience as a preacher. Sometimes, you express that sermon, and it seems you have so little to say… Or you stayed up late writing, and it still feels disjointed and lifeless. But someone still hears something. Sometimes, they hear something life-giving that you didn’t even intend. And you wake up to the realization that you are participating in what feels like a living, breathing moment. Somehow, it flowed through you… you — a relatively unaware messenger.

So this message, this post, this art, this embodiment, this leaning, this releasing, this sowing, this expressing…

It’s calling you.

Say what you need to say.

It may enliven a life,
even possibly, your own.

Renee Roederer

2 thoughts on “Say What You Need To Say (Two Lessons From Mary Oliver)

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