But to make up for it, here’s a little gem of poem written by the gentle man sitting next to me at left. This man, Mr. Frank Barone, was my ninth-grade English teacher. More than thirty years have passed since I was his student, but his remarkable insights into writing are still with me.
Long before I had any confidence in my skills as a writer, he read a short story of mine out loud to the class – that’s how much he liked it. He didn’t tell anyone what he was about to do. He just sat us all in a circle and said, “Let me read you a story.” I still remember the flush of joy at having him read my story to a room full of peers. That heady feeling of deep satisfaction and affirmation has stayed with me and fueled me at moments when I’ve been tempted to wonder if I have any knack at all for words. Just goes to show you how influential an adult can be in the life of a young writer.
Frank came to my book launch party on Sunday and presented me with a poem he wrote just for me. Pardon my boldness for sharing it with you here:
Susan has found a way to interpret life.
She looks at her world through honest eyes
and observes the people she meets
with their hopes and dreams
their hurts and scars
and listens to the unspoken stories they tell her.
Then she sits down with them at her desk
or maybe at Starbucks with a latte in her hand
and writes her way into their hearts
with clear prose and creative imagery.
Day after day they develop into friends
who have learned how to listen in silence
and with compassion
unafraid to reveal their souls to her
unafraid to speak the truth.
They trust her to intrepret their lives
so that their stories become her story
And as we read, Susan gives us the chance
to ease our hurts
soothe our scars
and renew our hopes and dreams.
With each page we turn
she invites us to join her growing group of friends
and together try to make sense of our lives
I wonder how different the world would be if each one of us vowed to empower one teenager to reach for the best that is within them. There is a great line in one of the Spiderman movies that says it best. Peter Parker is wrestling with choices he must make and his uncle says to our young reluctant hero something like this: “These are the years you are becoming the man you will be for the rest of your life.”
And therein is enough reason to encourage, affirm, impact, and influence the young adult near you who stands at the starting gate of all he or she will be.