There’s a line from Priest that I wait for whenever I watch the movie: “Solemn vows. That’s our currency, Matthew: solemn vows.” Father Greg is trying to explain that the only thing the Catholic Church demands from them is vows. (Father Matthew is arguing the difference between solemn vows and ridiculous, man-made rules—a blog for another time.) I’m not much for solemn vows, but my loathing of money is equal to my love of words. The idea of trading in something other than paper and metal is really, really appealing.
Two nights ago, I lost it on a student who’s been driving me batshit for the last couple of months. “If you were a multimillionaire, you still wouldn’t be able to buy enough chocolate to make me happy right now! Seeing as I’m only interested in chocolate and words, you’d better start handing over some pretty kickass words—RIGHT NOW!”
And he did.
I wasn’t lying to him: those are really the only two things that I regard highly enough that they might serve as currency. Sadly, cultures that revere chocolate don’t seem to exist anymore, so I’m outta luck with that. Words, though, are certainly holding their own in my life. Not only am I managing to use words as a hobby and a livelihood, but I’m able to hand words over to people who haven’t yet realised their power. While some of my students struggle for years, others quickly pick up on the sheer beauty of the letter Z (in any font), on the usefulness of persnickety, on the sleepiness of shroud. They may not have the vocabulary to create something beautiful, but they know the right questions to ask so that I can help them.
“Spelling is a boring word.”
“Choose something better.”
“There’s nothing better.”
“Then use another language. Use Greek.”
“What’s the Greek word?”
“Sounds smartical. I like it.”
The really nice thing—that thing that makes my heart expand a couple of sizes—is when I come to understand how a student has taken words as their currency. The last Chicken Soul Soup was written by Kay. Kay has never been interested in words before, but she’s proud of this writing. (Kay’s mother is not so proud, but she’s clinging to the belief that I know what I’m doing.) Kay was upset that I didn’t put her name on her Chicken Soul Soup. Her pride in that paragraph is such that she wants the world to connect her to those words. So I’ve changed the anonymous to the possessive. They are her words, her currency. I am fiercely proud of her pride.