POEM: Come Alive

At a party
A stranger
Approaches several guests
With great anticipation
Won by won
Not asking them
The routine inquiry
“What do you do
for a living?”
Instead asking them
“What do you do
that makes you come alive?”
Though it soon becomes clear
There is only one real question
Will they ever be the same?

This poem is inspired by one of my favorite quotes, by Howard Thurman, a theologian and activist: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”  This poem uses one of my favorite poetic devices, other than puns of course, the intentionally ambiguous pronoun; specifically, they in the last line.  This can refer to the several guests, or as to whether the answers to the two questions will ever merge into the one same answer.  As you would have rightly suspected, both of these interpretations reinforce one another.  The only use of a pun, twice, in Won by won, is a tip of the hat to another favorite quote of mine, by Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  This line infers that change comes about not simply by pondering questions, but my living and modeling the change that we want to see in the world.  The inquiring guest adds their own life to the weight of the question.  In a related quote, by the great Albert Schweitzer: “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”  The poem is mine.  The quotes driving this commentary are others’.  Of course, plagiarism is the highest form of flattery — a quote attributed to an unknown but highly flattered author.

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