I met him in-between Forever 21 and L.L. Bean in the Mall of America. In the middle of a 4.87 million square foot building that’s entire liturgy is designed to tell me “You’re not good enough as you are,” Jamie Tworkowski told me a different thing; I heard him say the words I’ve read oh-so many times: “This life is not about status or opinion or appearance. You don’t have to fake it. You do not have to fake it. Other people feel this way too.

I asked him to read my favorite piece of his, i hope you felt the fireworks, and he reminded me that beauty still has a place here. We are all living stories, and we have a purpose here.

I waited in line for a bit. People around me were literally shaking in excitement knowing they were going to meet someone who changed their life so much. Some of these people, I learned, wouldn’t have even been alive if it wasn’t for the hope he inspired in them. Finally it was my turn.

I walked forward with my arm extended to shake his hand. He looked at me and said “I’m sick, so I’m not sure if you want to shake my hand.” I replied “I’m sick too. In fact, if I wasn’t sick, I wouldn’t even be here right now. I work at a church, but because I wasn’t feeling well, I was able to take my Sunday to come meet you.” He smiled and shook my hand.

“So how are you?” he asked me. He knew the severity of his words; I’m sure most people reply that they’re excited to meet him, but I’ll be that he gets a few authentic answers a day too. I responded:

“I’m alright. I’ve had an incredibly emotional week, and sometimes, I feel too much. But that doesn’t really matter right now. I just wanted to say ‘thank you.’ Thank you for using your words to change the world. Your words saved one of my friends’ lives; if you didn’t give her hope, she might not be here today. You’ve changed her life, you’ve changed my life, and you’re changing so many. Thank you so much, Jamie. Thank you.”

He took a slight step back, cleared his throat, and said quietly, “Wow. That was an excellent speech.” I smiled a bit and said “I just felt like it was something I needed to say and something you needed to hear.”

He wrote three things in the front cover of my book: my name, his name, and the word “Hope.” I think there’s a reason that Paul said at the end of 1 Corinthians 13 “These three remain: faith, hope, and love.” Hope is one of the most powerful things that I know. Jamie has given me, along with so many others, the hope that each one of our stories matters, life is not meaningless, and beautiful things happen every day.

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