A Teacher's Gift
by Glenn Washburn
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I love words. I have always loved words. When I was young I couldn’t get enough of them. When other children couldn’t wait to get home after school to play, I couldn’t wait to go to the library. When other boys were grabbing baseball gloves, I was grabbing a book.
We were poor…not “I don’t have toys like the other kids” poor but oatmeal for dinner poor. Every summer all my friends went on vacation or off to camp. My mother, who was a single mom, couldn’t afford that. So, every summer I was pretty much alone. One summer I built a tree house. This was no ordinary tree house, however. This was a portal to parts unknown. In my tree house I met all kinds of interesting and remarkable people. I hung around with astronauts and deep sea divers, heroes and villains, sports superstars and world travelers. I went around the world in a hot air balloon in eighty days. I journeyed to the center of the earth. I traveled to other countries, climbed mountains, explored the ocean bottom and even visited outer space. And words were the currency that paid my way.
It all began in second grade. My teacher was the sweetest and most gentle woman I had ever known. I couldn’t wait to go to school. Each day she made my time there a wonderful adventure. Whenever I grasped a concept or got an answer right she would heap so much praise on me, it was if I had won the Nobel Peace Prize or discovered the cure for a deadly disease. Conversely, if I couldn’t grasp the concept or got an answer wrong she would encourage me with statements like: “Oh, you were so close” or “Almost, try again; I know you can do it.” At home I couldn’t seem to do anything right but at school I couldn’t do anything wrong. I loved leaning for her.
Then one day she sat on the front of her desk with a book in her hand. She told us that at the end of every day she was going to read the chapter of a book to us. She said it was her favorite story. So, before I had even heard the title it became my favorite story as well. It turned out to be “Charlotte’s Web”. As she read, a new world opened up for me. Her gentle voice became a brush that painted beautiful pictures of a bustling farm and a county fair; of a small girl’s love for a baby pig and a loving spider’s attempt to help that pig realize he was special. I hung on her every word. I came to know each character intimately. There was the beautiful and wise Charlotte the spider, the loving farm girl Fern, the self-conscious Wilbur the pig, the disdainful lamb, the over-protective goose and the self-serving Templeton the rat. I could even smell the words as she read. I could smell the hay in the barn, the popcorn at the fair and even Templeton’s rotten goose egg.
I fell in love with words that year. In the movie, “The Mighty”, one of the characters says, “Every word is part of a picture. Every sentence is a picture. All you do is put them together with your imagination. That is, if you have one.” And boy did I ever have one. After ”Charlotte’s Web” I couldn’t wait to unleash it on another book. The library became my second home; later it was my tree house and every book a glorious adventure.
Eventually, my love for reading became a desire to write. I began to wonder, “What if I could use words to paint pictures for others like me? What if I could help someone take a trip somewhere exotic like the countless trips others have provided for me?” And with those questions began the greatest adventure of my life: to become a creator. It is an adventure I am still experiencing to this day. Writing is one of my greatest joys. I am continually amazed at the process. First, I imagine it, then I speak it into being and make it real by writing it down, Finally, someone reads it and it springs to life (because a life shared is a life lived). I consider it one of my life’s greatest blessings to be able to write words that help people go places they haven’t been, think thoughts they haven’t considered or return to places and times that they’ve forgotten.
My one dream is to someday be able to make a living with my words; to be able to write something that would move someone so much that they would see value in me writing something else. Will it happen? Time will tell, but for now I continue to read and write, going on adventures and trying to help others to go on theirs.
It is a Divine gift to be able to put words on a page that can cause another to feel love, joy or fond remembrance; to inspire or encourage someone, to educate or enlighten them. And it is a Gift I do not take lightly. Indeed, I thank God every time I put my fingers to the keyboard. And I especially thank Him for that teacher from so many years ago who set my feet on the path that led me on this wonderful adventure, who was a Charlotte to my Wilbur and helped me realize that even I, a poor lonely child from the wrong side of the tracks, could be “one terrific pig”.
My prayer is that one day I can make someone else’s spirit soar, help someone else’s imagination come alive, help heal someone’s heart and give them hope or send some lonely child on a voyage of a lifetime; simply by using the words that I love so much... words inspired by a second grade teacher I will never forget.
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I really enjoyed reading your love of reading. I commend you on your writing. Don't give up. I pray for you to be continually blessed in doing what you love so much, writing. God bless.