Tag Archives: Poverty

The Fish is an Animal That Swims in the Water

That was the slow spoken answer Jeanette Walls received from a unbelieving waitress in West Virginia. Jeanette had graduated from Barnard, become a successful journalist, and decided it was time to pay her hometown a visit. A visit that would tell the “townsfolk” that she was now a sophisticated New Yorker. She chose to dine at an establishment that she was always too intimidated to step into in her previous life, but now she was going to walk in on confidence and designer shoes. The “establishment” was only a coffee shop…she sat herself at a booth and was handed a simple menu advertising their fish special. This was a good time to display her airs and sense of style,or so she thought.

Jeanette recounts her question of, “Excuse me…what is your fish?” to the waitress, demonstrating with a low, airy voice suggesting that she expected no less than “wild sea bass, with a caramelized crust”. She was quickly brought back to earth with the reply… “The Fish, is an animal…that swims in the water”. She told this story and many others from her book, The Glass Castle at Ball State University with joy; realizing to the audience that she was “lucky enough to have a crappy childhood” and  have the gift of her dreams, and goodness of life to encourage and share with others. 

The words Jeanette had for hundreds of listeners were beautiful and marked with her honest reflection…When asked how she even started such a project, she answered with something her mother told her… “Just tell the truth.”

I felt very privileged to listen to the lecture of such an accomplished writer who saw herself as nothing more than a “journalist with a weird childhood”, her thoughts on life and it’s cruelty and goodness were calming and brought perspective…like that of her overly-positive mother, who once told her, “Things usually work out in the end”When Jeanette asked, “But what if they don’t?” Her mother just replied with…

“That just means you haven’t reached the end yet.”



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