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Quotes are like songs and musical tunes. You can remember and repeat only the really good ones. For some reason, they stay in your head and play over and over again after you have found the perfect one. Like songs, quotes can be stuck in different places of your life. Each one has a significant meaning that relates to certain areas of your experience. Some people find quotes of inspiration from songs or books. Others come across them in the Bible. Some find them on those handy internet sites. Others discover them in a fortune cookie. But for me, I found the perfect quote sitting on a bench in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. after a long but very interesting tour during my summer family vacation. This quote continues to stay with me and intrigue me with its abstract but significant meaning.
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Since I was in the largest library in the world, the Library of Congress seemed like the perfect place to find a quote within its multitude of books. However, I did not find my favorite saying in a book in the library; I found it on a wall. After a long day of touring, I plopped tiredly onto a bench and stared into space. In my boredom, my eyes began playing tricks on me. They gravitated towards one of the many quotes that fill and beautifully decorate the library’s walls. It read, “WORDS ARE ALSO ACTIONS AND ACTIONS ARE A KIND OF WORDS.” I read the quote, read it again, and read it again several times after that. Something in my head was tugging at me to fully understand that quote, so I contemplated it for a while and then forgot about it. When I returned home from vacation, I kept remembering that specific quotation over and over again; it was like a song had gotten stuck in my head and it kept repeating the same line. Never before had something someone wrote or said ever affected me in this way. My curiosity pushed me to email a librarian at the Library of Congress and discover my line was written by the great Transcendentalist, Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his work “The Poet.” I had solved the mystery to my quote. It was now just a matter of deciphering it to determine its true meaning in my life.
When I first saw this quote in the library, I immediately thought that it sounded really familiar. Emerson’s words reminded me of the colloquial saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” I saw my quote as a response to that proverb that I had grown up with all my life. When Emerson says “Words are also actions,” I immediately felt that all words and actions were at the same level. A person’s words and the actions that accompany them go hand in hand. I realize that in my life, this quote applies to many of my views towards hypocrites and “fake” people. When I hear a person say one thing and do the opposite later, I become frustrated because they are being untrue to themselves and untrue to others. It would be nice if people truly knew their beliefs and acted on those beliefs. I used to believe that to be “cool” or “popular” I had to conform to other’s expectations. Just to fit in, I would say the slang, dress the part, and have the attitude. However, I knew I was not being true to myself. I soon realized I was being caught in my lies, and in reevaluating myself, I found a group of friends who allowed me to show my true colors and be myself. To this day, I am still friends with these people and know I will continue these friendships throughout my life. I do not have to act, pretend, or lie around them. Emerson’s quote has inspired me to stick to my beliefs and personality because my words are also an example of my actions. What I say I am and what I do go hand in hand to create my unique self.
The second part of the quote, “Actions are a kind of words,” fuses the human self with his or her words. Some people cannot communicate as well as others, which can create a barrier for understanding, but their actions mean everything to them and to you. When I worked at the Torrance city transit office, I often sold passes to mentally disabled children and adults. One day, a disabled teenager around my age came to the counter and requested a special bus pass. He had a very hard time speaking and articulating his words; after many efforts, I still could not understand him. I felt horrible because I wanted to help him and not further his embarrassing situation. I felt useless and wanted badly to help him. Finally, in my frustration, he gave me a huge smile, took out his wallet, and showed me exactly what I needed to give him. His smile conveyed everything he could not say in words; his understanding told me, “Everything is okay, thank you, and you’re welcome” all in one. Looking back, this one act of patience and overall goodness touched my heart in a way that I shall remember forever. Through that experience, his actions also put into words his whole life situation, marked by helplessness and misunderstanding. I later found out he had been in the middle of a gang shooting and was shot in the head. I became even more sympathetic to his situation and more appreciative of his actions towards me. Meeting him has furthered my interest in pediatric mental and physical disabilities. With this quote, I have learned to look past a person’s outward appearance and look inward towards the true source or motive for their actions. You cannot judge a person by his or her words or appearance. Actions can be small and insignificant or large and lofty, but they tell something about a person’s character. In certain situations, words can be the best actions, but in other instances, actions can be enough to understand a person’s entire life.
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I can still remember that moment in the Library of Congress. From my experience, quotes can inspire actions and promote words. My action that day was to squint at the wall to read the quote, and my verbal response was “Wow, that is deep,” not even knowing how deep that influence would be on my life. I can remember the feelings of that day. The picture of the quote on the wall is a little fuzzy now, but the saying and its significance in my life will never fade.
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