this I believe

This I Believe Rhode Island: Miracles

Nov 24, 2015

  The nineteenth century novelist Joseph Conrad once wrote, “My task, which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel--it is, before all, to make you see.”  And that is exactly what this NPR series aims to do.  Featured essayists stitch together words that let you peek inside their core beliefs, their struggles to understand their world, their insights about what matters most in life.  Sometimes these words are expressed in prose, sometimes in poetry.  And as Rhode Island's outgoing state poet Rick Benjamin notes, sometimes we enjoy both poetry and prose.

Rick Benjamin has served as the state poet of Rhode Island since 2013.  He will be departing shortly for a new position in California.

  It’s no secret that many people struggle in life: job-related problems, relationship challenges, mental health issues, financial uncertainty.  The list goes on and on.  Yet, some people are remarkably resilient in the face of chronic adversity.  Against daunting odds, they manage to flourish amidst nearly overwhelming challenges.  In Paradise Lost, John Milton wrote, “Even the demons are encouraged when their chief is ‘not lost in loss itself.”  Noah Kilroy has much to say about coping with adversity and despair and, ultimately, rising from the proverbial ashes. 

Noah Kilroy is an attorney practicing in Providence.  He is a graduate of Salve Regina University and Roger Williams University Law School.

  You know those middle-of-the-night or early-morning awakenings when your senses are unusually sharp? The slightest sounds take on new meaning, or perhaps otherwise fleeting thoughts become intrusive. Solitude and silence, although sometimes disquieting, seem to invite deep reflection and unusually intense awareness. As Henry David Thoreau says in Walden, “I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”  And we hear echoes of these sentiments from Erik Wilker.

Erik Wilker is an administrator at Moses Brown School in Providence, where he was asked to contribute a "This I Believe" essay to a student-led project.  He and his family moved to Rhode Island eleven years ago after having lived in the West.

  The renowned seventeenth-century British poet John Milton began to lose his sight in his early 30's. Milton opened his poem entitled On Blindness with these words: "When I consider how my light is spent, Ere half my days in this dark world . . . ." Milton spent considerable time reflecting on his blindness and also wrote these poignant words: "To be blind is not miserable; not to be able to bear blindness, that is miserable." Nancy Jasper shares her own poetic reflections on this remarkable challenge.

Nancy Jasper is a clinical social worker at Child and Family, a comprehensive social service agency in Middletown.

This I Believe Rhode Island: Gratitude

Oct 27, 2015

  We all know that life can overwhelm us at times, but it sure is nice when we can take a step back and feel grateful, truly appreciating what's good and rich in our lives.  The ancient Roman statesman and philosopher Cicero put it succinctly:  "Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others."  If we're really fortunate, we find times in our lives when we're able to stop and truly embrace profound moments and encounters that come our way, as we hear from Daren Girard.


Daren Girard is an emergency physician at Landmark Medical Center in Woonsocket, where he also serves as the Medical Director of Emergency Services.  Girard, his wife, and two children, Sophie and Teddy, live in North Kingstown.

  One of the advantages of aging is that we have the opportunity to gain perspective.  The passage of time, the ability to gaze at our life’s journey through the rearview mirror, often enables us to cultivate a sense of priorities, to truly appreciate life’s precious, often fleeting, moments.  And, sometimes, what seems relatively mundane in our lives can be a great teacher.  Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.”  That’s what we hear from John Walsh.

John Walsh is a partner in the East Greenwich-based communications firm, Walsh & Associates. He writes a monthly Op-Ed column for the Providence Journal, which published an earlier version of this essay.  Walsh shares essays and observations at

This I Believe Rhode Island: Fall Apples

Oct 13, 2015

  One of the joys of living in Rhode Island and New England is that we get to experience the poignant changes in the seasons, the shift from summer's sweetness to the bucolic fall, and from winter's chill to spring's bountiful beauty. Of course, seasonal changes aren’t always so pleasant or welcome.  As Henri Flikier notes, shifting seasons - in New England and in our own lives - are filled with complexity and challenge.

Henri Flikier is a clinical social worker in Providence.  He grew up in Paris, France and moved to New York City as a teenager. Flikier resides with his family in East Bay.

This I Believe Rhode Island: Reason to Hope

Oct 7, 2015

  There are times when despair seems to saturate our lives.  The sudden death of a loved one, which is followed by the loss of a job on the same day as the ominous cancer diagnosis, which happened a mere three weeks after receiving the foreclosure notice on one’s house.  You get the idea.  All of us have bad days now and then, but for some there are those bad weeks, or months, or even years.  In the midst of it all, it sure can be hard to find reason to hope, but hope we must.  And that’s what we hear from Doreen Conca Engel.

Doreen Conca Engel serves as a Guidance Counselor and the Director of the Benilde Program at St. Raphael Academy in Pawtucket.

This I Believe Rhode Island: Say When

Sep 29, 2015

  All of us experience painful losses during the course of our lives.  The beloved family pet who dies after years of comforting companionship.  The dreadful breakup of a decades-long marriage.  The inevitable, but nonetheless agonizing, death of a nurturing parent.  At times these losses seem overwhelming and nearly impossible to bear.  Yet sometimes profound loss opens windows to new and remarkable insights and appreciations.  And that's what we hear from Bev Wright.


This I Believe Rhode Island: Stand For More

Sep 22, 2015

  If we’re fortunate, as we march through life we bump into true inspiration.  Perhaps we’re lucky enough to have a teacher or mentor who points us in directions we never imagined possible.  Or we encounter a toal stranger who, completely unexpectedly, turns our lives around.  Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”  David Mellor shares his thoughts about the truly fortuitous encounter that inspired him.

David Mellor has taught high school mathematics for more than twenty years.

  The natural beauty and challenges that surround us are chock-full of lessons about life's fragility and its complex interconnectedness.  As Shakespeare wrote, "One touch of nature makes the whole world kin."  Throughout history, we human beings have tried hard to sort out the kind of relationship we want to have with nature, whether to follow nature's lead or to try to lead nature on our path.  We hear Frederick Thurber's thoughts about this tenuous relationship.

Frederick Thurber grew up in Providence and earned a degree from Brown University in 1983.  For the last 20 years, in his spare time he has written nature and wine columns for local publications.  He currently lives in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

  At some point, most of us face the challenge: caring for an aging, possibly disabled, parent.  For some, this daunting responsibility is not filled with dread but, instead, with generosity of spirit, equanimity and, a peaceful resolve.  But for others, such caretaking is much more complicated, perhaps because of the complex, ambivalent, and conflicted relationships that evolved over the years. We hear from remarkably wise 15-year-old Levi Reyes, who watched the process unfold in his family, and learned so much from it.

This I Believe Rhode Island: Hope

Sep 1, 2015

  Hope.  It's what keeps us going when storm clouds move into our lives, in those darkest moments when there seems to be no glimmer of light.  Hope.  The poet Emily Dickinson said, "Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul -- and sings without the words -- and never stops at all."  And that's what we hear about hope from Samantha Andersen.

Samantha Andersen is an independent educational consultant living in Pawtucket.  After living in various states across the country, she settled in Rhode Island in 2012, and believes that in the Ocean State she has found her "forever home."

This I Believe Rhode Island: Real Girls

Aug 25, 2015

  The 19th-century poet Ralph Waldo Emerson got it right: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”  But, as we all know, such words sometimes make simple what is actually far more complicated.  Being truly unique and sustaining that can be a chronic challenge, especially when the world's voices shout for you to move in a different, more compliant direction.  Going against the tide takes courage, as we hear from eighteen-year-old Grace Miner.

Grace Miner is about to enter her senior year at East Greenwich High School.

  All of us have an overflowing collection of early-life experiences and memories.  Some are glorious and some, well, not so much.  Whether these memories are warm and fuzzy or profoundly traumatic, presumably all of us can reach into the rich assortment and pull out at least a handful of truly formative, perhaps life-altering experiences.  And that's what we hear from Mike Fink.

Mike Fink is an English professor at the Rhode Island School of Design. He has produced columns in a wide range of local and national magazines and earned the Providence Journal's Metcalf Award and the National Conference for Community Justice Award, as well as the Never Again Award for journalism.