I just finished an excellent book (if you don’t completely hate YA as a genre). It’s Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also a Star, and it’s the story of two teens, Daniel and Natasha, thrown together the day before Natasha is deported back to Jamaica, her family’s illegal status having been discovered.
It’s a whole lot like two books I love: imagine The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, with an immigration plotline. Or Everything I Never Told You, minus the death in the family, because Yoon shows you the story from every character’s perspective. Yoon makes it work.
Very early in the story, we meet Irene. She’s not our main character, but she’s tied to them. Irene is a security guard at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services building in downtown Manhattan.
To look at Irene, you’d probably think she hates her job. But Yoon tells us she loves it. More than loves it—she needs it. She’s lonely, and so, as she sees it, “Every interaction with these applicants saves her life just a little.” It’s her connection to the world.
***** ***** *****
This is a tough time of year for a lot of us. The days are short, and relentlessly dreary. Everyone has the flu, or if they’re lucky, the sniffles. Budgets are tight. And spring feels a long way away.
Winter is a challenging season for me. To preserve my sanity during the cold and grey days, I adopted a habit a few years back. I started keeping a list—an actual, physical, pen-and-paper list—of the things that were actively giving me life in my least favorite season.
The idea comes from author Barbara Brown Taylor. In her memoir Leaving Church, Taylor tells about a time she was invited to speak, and her host assigned her this topic: “Tell us what is saving your life right now.”
Most of us know what’s killing us, and can articulate it, if asked. Some of us are overwhelmed with hurry and worry; some of us face crushing poverty; some feel utterly paralyzed.
But few of us stop to note what’s giving us life. Taylor says it’s too good a question to not revisit every once in a while: what are the things—big or small—that are saving us?
A job—like Irene’s—seems like an awfully big thing to me, but sometimes the things that give us life are decidedly smaller. Sometimes, they feel so small I feel silly writing them down. Oh well. I’m choosing to notice them anyway. When I don’t, my mind drifts to what’s killing me, instead.
***** ***** *****
Next Thursday is February 2, the halfway point of winter. For the third year running, we’re joining together to combat the winter doldrums by making our lists of what’s saving our lives right now and sharing them here. This list-sharing and life-sharing has been so wonderful in the past. I can’t wait to do it again.
On February 2, I’ll share my list—and you’re invited to share yours, too.
Winter is hard, but by pausing at its halfway point to share the things that are helping us through it, we’ll lighten the load.
I can’t wait to hear what’s on your list.