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Slow Writing: Julia Alvarez on the craft of writing
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# 3. A story about a wonderful moment of slowness

I heard this story from Mr. Rogers when he gave the commencement speech at Middlebury College in 2001. It was a rainy Sunday morning, a few days after my husband's mother died. Bill and I were both weepy and raw and didn't know what to do with ourselves. Otherwise, I don't think we would have chosen to go stand in the rain on a Sunday morning to hear what the host of a kid show had to say.

It was one of the best speeches ever. Unpretentious, sweet without being cloying, reminding us of important things by telling us stories, little anecdotes, memories collected from here and there, a magpie of a speech, a model for what this slug of a blog is attempting to do, tell stories, share insights and discoveries that happen when we slow down and write the world.

The story he told was about something that had happened at the Special Olympics in Seattle a few years before. Nine contestants had signed up for the 100-yard dash, all of them handicapped in some way. When the gun sounded, they all took off. But then one of the kids, a little boy, fell and started crying. The other contestants heard him, turned around, and every single one of them ran back. They picked him up, and then the kids all linked arms and walked to the finish line together. They all finished the race at the same time! And when they did, the crowd went wild; People stood up and cheered and clapped for a long while.

"And you know why?" Mr. Rogers asked. "Because deep down we know that what matters in this life is much more than winning for ourselves. What really matters is helping others win, too, even if it means slowing down and changing our course now and then."

Slowing down to help others. Creating communities in which we all win. Somebody loves us all. Nothing human is alien to us. Stories and poems have always known this. And the older I get, the more I know this.


Julia Alvarez
January, 2010
3 blades of grass
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una babosa -- a slug at Alta Gracia in the Dominican Republic
una babosa
a slug at Alta Gracia in the Dominican Republic

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