When I heard someone exclaim that a certain table had a beautiful finish, I was reminded of a student’s recent essay, and of the student herself. Her essay was certainly not a work of academic perfection, filled as it was with sporadic errors and whole sections of sluggishness, but still, it had what I would call “a beautiful finish.” Just as an antique table might be scattered with nicks and scrapes but still be considered a masterwork, so did this girl’s writing win me over with its modest and sincere artistry. There was a shine on the sentences as I read them -- mostly, I think, because I could sense that she tried her very best and that the words were the work of a big heart. You might say her essay, then, was “finished”, as though, for that single endeavor of her young life, it was as good as it could be. For some reason, it made me think of the sky, and it came to me (I was outside beneath a bundle of fall clouds) that every sky that appears above us – every different display of clouds or haze or sunshine or storms – is perfect just as it is. Every cloudy sky is a perfect cloudy sky – has a perfect finish to it, in other words, just as this girl’s flawed but heartfelt essay was perfect for what it was. There was a finish to it that seemed like something lustrous as I set it down on my desk – my soiled and disordered desk that should have been thankful to have such writing resting on it.
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