The Universe Has a Message for You

“The greatest glory lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
–Nelson Mandela

That quote is the one that convinced me that I am magic.

Well, not magic, really.  It just made me think that there is a possibility of fate being bent and shaped in just the right way — that meanings are not always constructed in our minds, sometimes they appear outside us like shapes in the mist.

With my first graduating clinic class, I started a tradition, a closing ceremony.  On their final clinic shift before graduation, I gathered up a bunch of inspirational quotes, then wrote them on notecards.  I put the cards in unlabeled envelopes and shuffled them so I didn’t know which was which.  Before the students arrived for their shift, I put a notecard in each of their massage rooms.  Everyone got a message.  I didn’t know which.  At the time, it seemed nothing more than fair.  What if I assigned quotes to people and someone thought theirs was harsh, or took it the wrong way?  This way, I took myself mostly out of it, and they could make their own meaning out of it.

That day, Kim got the envelope with the above quote.  I have written about Kim before, how during her final term she was mugged, knocked to the ground and beaten.  By the final clinic shift, she was physically recovered, but still mentally reeling.  She came into the student lounge, notecard clutched in her hand and said, “This one!  You planned this!”  She knew I hadn’t planned it, and so did I, but the coincidence touched both of us.  We hugged and cried.  Kim tucked the notecard into her shirt and kept it there for the entire shift.

I went home that night feeling contented, thinking what a nice, random thing to happen.  So the next time I had a graduating class for clinic, I did the exercise again.  My most cerebral student got the quote about overthinking.  I did the same ceremony the following term.  One student and I had spent an earlier shift talking over her negative body image and self talk, and I spent a long time gently persuading her to try being as kind to herself as she was to everyone else.  She got the quote about internal beauty.

There are more examples, some beautifully matched like these, some where it was clear to me that meaning was being drawn onto the situation by the students.  Still, every time I did this exercise, people left feeling like they had received a truly personalized message.  I decided to turn down my practical brain, and named the ceremony “The Universe Has a Message for You.”

I have just started a new term, and I have a clinic group who will be graduating at the end of it.  I am looking forward to the messages that will come to them.

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