How do you tell the story of a life? Or better yet, how do you tell the story of your life? How would you capture your experiences, your relationships, your joys and sorrows, your identity, all it is that makes you, you? How do you tell the story of your life?
Within recent years, there has arisen the phenomenon of the six word memoir – telling one’s story in a mere six words. Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write a six word story. Not one to simply let such a challenge go by, Hemingway reportedly responded with “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.” Some say it is his best work. Others say it is simple legend, and still others have seen it as a challenge for themselves. Tell your story in six words.
How would you do it? What would your six words be? If you were to consider the path that you have walked, the life that you have lived up until this moment, with what six words would you depict it?
Several years ago, Smith Magazine, an on-line publication, started doing just that. The results are poignant, thought provoking, sometimes heart-rending. Telling.
“It all changed in an instant.”
“Nearing 60. Still on rough draft.”
"That homeless man is my stepfather.”
“Succeeded in forgiving. Failed to forget.”
“Will finish novel after grading papers.”
“Tiny son dying in my arms.”
“Tattoos made my skin more me.”
How about you, what would your six word memoir be? Or if a six word memoir of your life is too much to tackle, how about a six word memoir of this year? What would that be? As this academic year draws to a close, how would you characterize it? What six words would you choose?
As life here at Valpo shifts to a different rhythm within the coming days and weeks, I invite you to carry with you a six word memoir of sorts that arises from the Christian Scriptures. There are, of course, many different six word combinations that could speak to us and which we could carry in our hearts, but here is the one I suggest: my time is in God’s hands.
Whether you are a student, a member of the faculty, or a part of the staff or administration, this memoir is for you. It is a word to carry with you day after day, a word to sustain you when it is a challenge to keep going, a word to comfort you when you are afraid, a word to empower you to face whatever it is that lies ahead for you. My time is in God’s hands.
What would happen if you began each day with these words as the invocation of the morning and ended each day with these words as the benediction of the night? My time is in God’s hands. Six words. Not a bad memoir for each and every one of us.
Oh, and one more thing. If you are up to writing a six word memoir of your life, or your year, I’d love to know what it is. Send me an email, and I will gladly add your memoir to my own ever-growing collection.
Rev. James A. Wetzstein and Rev. Charlene M. Rachuy Cox serve as university pastors at Valpo and take turns writing weekly reflections.