Marginalia refers to 1) marginal notes or embellishments (as in a book) or 2) nonessential items. Marginalia are very personal. The notes that are made in the margins of books or articles reflect the moment in time for that individual as they are engaged in reading or learning or reflecting. Highlighted sections or a few scribbled notes capture those unique inspirational moments. A family cookbook filled with smudges and stains and several generations worth of marginalia guide us through a recipe, but also remind us of a family member who left the note. Just seeing my grandma’s hand writing brings me back to the Oso farm, rope swings, the over gown apple tree in the back 40…
The margin notes of our lives are anything but marginal. If we compare our lives to a book, an unfinished book, filled with several chapters, what would be some of the marginalia that have been written? For many of us our books span decades and multiple generations. The books themselves are chock full of wisdom and life lessons, but the marginalia of our lives are where we find deep meaning, joy, sorrow, life.
Many of the notes speak out to us from the midst of a full, but oft chaotic life. The birth of a child; the loss of a child. Cancer; cancer in remission. A wedding; a divorce. The first dance recital; the last dance recital. A first word; a last word.
It is in such places that the marginalia have been highlighted or written by life. Very important places. Places filled with deep love and pain, hope and sorrow, joy and sadness. And we can’t really know either without knowing both. I contend that in the marginalia of our lives there is very little of the nonessential. Rather, there we find the foundation of knowledge and experiences that can be used to create more love, more hope, more joy to heal the pain, the sorrow, and the sadness of our own lives and the lives of others.
Yet, are we willing to let others read the marginalia of our lives? All of us can use our margin notes to write on the lives of others, but what and how we share our marginalia will determine whether we have a positive or negative impact. Let us strive to write or speak words of hope and life. Let us do acts of kindness on purpose with intention to make the life of another better tomorrow than it is today.