“Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another will help lighten the burdens of the world. Anything. You have no idea what the simplest word, the tiniest generosity can set in motion.”—Clarissa Pinkola Estes, from her essay, We Were Made For These Times (quoted throughout the post.)
Do you remember why you started writing? I know—that’s a loaded question, right? A simpler question might be: Was there a specific event or book or story that first prompted you to put pen to paper?
Or perhaps there was a person, as there was for me.
Finding Mr. Raymond
Anyone who’s ever read my bio (all three of you) knows that my writing journey began when my sixth grade teacher assigned me to read The Hobbit. My wife, who had heard the story of Mr. Raymond and the start of my love of reading and fantasy often over the years, recently asked me if I had ever thanked him. I sheepishly admitted that I hadn’t. Indeed, I never saw or spoke to him again after leaving my elementary school on the last day in his classroom.
My wife, being her naturally gracious self, made it her mission to find him so that I could properly thank him. Turns out that Mr. Raymond only taught that one year, his first after graduating from a local university. From there he went on to enter the Peace Corps, graduate from law school, become a partner at a law firm, and raise a family. She found him listed as the Associate Director of a Jesuit Retreat in a nearby metropolitan area.
Wow—full life, eh? No small wonder I never bumped into him again.
To Sir, With Love
With his permission, and your indulgence, allow me to share a slightly abridged version our recent correspondence.
Hello Mr. Raymond,
After an extensive internet search (read: “virtual stalking,” sorry), I’m fairly sure you were my sixth grade teacher at Burke Elementary in 1973. I’m not sure if you’ll remember me, but I wanted you to know that I’ll never forget you, and that you inspired me in a special way. A way that’s changed my life. Allow me to explain.
It seems to me it was a large class, and as I recall, our group behavior really challenged you as a first year teacher (sorry for any part I played in that). But you definitely had a reputation as “the cool teacher.” I think, as a way of dealing with the challenge, you instituted a “divide and conquer” strategy for your reading lessons. A handful of us were put into an advanced reading group. You gave us each a copy of Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and let us read on our own. I quickly became utterly enthralled—totally immersed in a beguiling new world. [Read more…]