The small things that make us who we are

This is a special page in the Uncommon story, as I have the privilege of introducing Lisa Sanchez to all of you. Lisa is a talented writer and editor in Atlanta. She has a true love and understanding of our community and has graciously offered to lend her unique voice to Uncommon. Please make her feel at home.

Growing up, I collected postage stamps. I learned in elementary school how to soak the top right corner of an envelope and set its stamp free, in order to be dried and positioned lovingly into an album.

What began as a school day activity soon seeped into my after-school life, and eventually, ten-year-old me began receiving the USA Philatelic Catalog. I’d spend hours circling my favorites and even once ordered a grab bag of cancelled stamps from around the world. For a while, I had a pen pal who lived in England, and I anxiously awaited her letters—not only for their contents but also for the fancy British stamps on the envelopes.

That was before we had the internet at home and before life sped up to grown-up time. I began sending most notes instantly, via email, and distant places like England suddenly seemed not so far away at all. My stamp collection ebbed out of my life, as even our favorite things sometimes do.

But just the other day, a letter arrived in the mail, and the stamp, a portrait of the poet William Carlos Williams, caught my eye. I clipped it from the envelope and tacked it to my bulletin board, with the faint memory of having done that very same thing many years before.

When I stumbled upon the first inkling of Uncommon back in July, I had that same wonderful feeling of something new and familiar all at once. I got goosebumps at the thought of a community and an experiment dedicated to slowing down and noticing the small things that make us who we are.

It is, of course, those small, favorite things—whether they stick with us over a lifetime or fade into the background—that shape us profoundly. We can’t help but be transformed by the knowledge and experience of having loved something well.

All this is just to say that I’m excited to get to know you here, to share the things we love, and to take this Uncommon journey together. Send me a note anytime at lisa at — Lisa


Last week’s dispatch asked, Who was or is your favorite teacher or professor and why?

Adam wrote:

My favorite professor is Dr. Richard Gerberding for two reasons. First, he lives in a castle, complete with secret passages, massive fireplaces, and a moat with a working drawbridge. Who wouldn't love a professor with his very own castle? Second, as cliché as it sounds, he always challenged me to learn for the sake of learning. College could have easily turned into nothing more than a focused effort around computer science to land the best job, but with his guidance, college became so much more than job preparation.

Not only did he make history classes a highlight of my college experience, but he also exposed me to many different subjects I would have ignored if left on my own. Dr. Gerberding single-handedly changed my approach to college, and I will be forever grateful to him for caring about my education, not just my grade in his classes.

Karen wrote:

My favorite Professor is Dr. Guy Stern, from Wayne State University.  I was his research assistant, and he brought me lunch every day. We'd sing cabaret tunes together, and he taught me more than I realized at the time about literature, music, language and life.

He was my favorite for many reasons, not the least of which was his genuine kindness and enthusiasm. In his 70s at the time, he skipped down the hall to the Department office to pick up his mail. He drank his coffee black like I did, and he always trusted me with important work.  It was all important work; opening the hearts and minds of students to Exile Literature in all its emotional and psychological complexity.

I was inspired by a great man, an exile himself, who brought compassion, understanding, kindness and joy to an otherwise excruciating time of personal growth.

Amanda wrote:

Ah, my favorite teacher. That would be Mrs. Perella, or "Frau" as we German students called her. She taught us how to ask for directions and how to conjugate verbs and to make those strange noises that are part of the German language. In the midst of grammar exercises and noun drills, she passed on to us more than a love of the language. She reminded us that learning can be fun, and she showed us how knowing another language can open doors and shift our world view in amazing ways.

News and such

The Story So Far made its debut this weekend. It's an easy way to catch up on the story of Uncommon and a great place to direct your friends who are curious about what this is all about. There's also a festive favicon :)

Your turn

What sorts of things do you love to collect, and why?