On Passing Notes and Other Reflections

Communication is something close to my heart. Even prior to kindergarten, conversing with others was enjoyable. Anyone remember report card “citizenship” grades? At Sierra Madre Elementary School, citizenship grades were a big deal and never slipped through the cracks. My teachers persistently marked my report cards with a “C” or “C-” in citizenship for talking during class when I was supposed to be quiet. All that did was encourage me to go underground by passing notes to classmates!

Trying to suppress a talkative person is, in some ways, like trying to tame the mighty Mississippi River. On one memorable November afternoon in 2011, while Jon and I stood on a bluff in Natchez, Mississippi, overlooking the Mississippi River, we met a keen man in his mid to late 80s. From birth, he had lived in a very big, yellow, wood frame house situated directly behind us on the bluff. He eagerly shared his insights about the River, including recurrent extensive efforts by the United States Army Corps of Engineers to redirect the river at specific bends. Based on his broad knowledge, he was convinced the River outsmarts even the most ingenious engineers . . . deliberately choosing its own path. But the engineers haven’t given up—they keep trying to force the River to comply with their will.

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