I hate to admit it, but a picture is worth a thousand words.
Coming from me, a "word" person, that is almost an admission of defeat. I try to express my thoughts and feelings in words, and mostly I think words are adequate. But sometimes, words aren't enough or, in any case, they don't do the job as well.
Two recent examples have led me to think about this.
In my English classes, we are starting to read literature from the Middle Ages. I was trying to explain to the students the great role the church had in the lives of the people back then. The church was powerful and rich, and the church was the center of learning. It is hard to get a feeling for this, but I tried to explain about the awesome cathedrals that were built back then massive buildings with gigantic arches and ornate decorations and gorgeous stained glass windows. I realized that what I really needed to do was to take the students to London to see St. Paul's Cathedral, or to Paris to see Notre Dame, or to Cambridge, England, to see the "colleges," each built around a huge gothic church. I have been lucky enough to see all of those buildings, but I can't afford to take my students to Europe. I was trying to describe the cathedrals in words, when I realized what I really needed, if I couldn't take them there, were pictures. Otherwise, I was just babbling words like "huge" and "ornate" and "awesome," but those words couldn't create the right impression. I will show the students pictures instead.
The second recent example of words being inadequate is a display near the entrance to the high school. The display honors local veterans who are serving or have served in Iraq. It is simple and tastefully done, with photographs of the soldiers. It took my breath away.
It is a visual thing. It needed no words. But since most of you don't pass through Norwalk High School, I will try to use words to tell you what was so striking.
It was the photographs. It was the faces. They are familiar; they are the faces of the classmates of some of my children. They are people I have known since they were children playing with my children, kicking soccer balls on teams I watched many years ago. Do I call them boys or men now? They are somewhere in-between. Their faces are so familiar, yet they have a tough look to them, a grown-up look. Perhaps it is the soldier's uniform. Perhaps it is the bravery in their eyes, the bravery that says they are serving their country.
Do they know they may not return alive? I know it, but people of that age don't really understand that is part of their bravery. They are young, they are vulnerable, they are full of adventure and risk-taking and they look so innocent and so mature, all at the same time. And they are so far away.
I can only imagine how their parents and families feel hoping, praying for their safe return. I feel proud to know them a little bit, proud to be part of the community they grew up in. And I hope so much that they will come home safely.
Statistics about the war don't tell the whole story. Pictures of the young men and women who are serving there tell the story better than any words can, even the words of a columnist.