Monday, October 29, 2007
When I was growing up I had written a story. It was a story of which I was incredibly proud. I had shared this story with my little brother, Yancy. A few weeks later my little brother was very excited because a short story he had written won a writing contest and would be included in a publication at his elementary school. It wasn’t long before the stapled-together booklet came home with my brother’s short story. As I read the first sentence I found myself my temper beginning to rise within me. The reason I was feeling angry was because the story my brother had written was my story. The one I had written and had told him about.
I immediately wanted justice for this “stealing” of my idea. Had I known what the word plagiarism was back then, I probably would have used that when I was stating my case to my mom who, after listening, responded with something like, “Jason, your little brother copied your idea because he looks up to you. You’re his big brother who wrote a story; he wanted to write a similar story…he did it because you’re his hero.”
I didn’t see how stealing my idea had anything to do with being a hero, and once-again tried to get my mom to see my side of the situation. After listening to me rant on yet again, my mom tried to get me to see what she was trying to say. I just didn’t get it. She ended the conversation with the following words, “Jason, imitation is the highest form of flattery, and one day you’ll understand it.”
Many years have flown since that day when my brother and I were both children, and I have to say that over these days I have finally came to understand what it was my mother meant. When we copy what someone else does, we are in essence saying, “I want to be like you,” or “You are somebody that I look up to.” By imitating them, we are sending a message, a message without any words.
I was recently absent for about a week from the classroom where I teach sixth grade. When I returned to school today, I was greeted with a surprise. You see, four days each week I dress up for school—usually with a white shirt and tie. Today was no exception. However, as I went outside this morning to retrieve my class, I noticed that one of my students, whom I’ll christen as “Chase,” was wearing a white shirt and tie as well.
At first I didn’t say anything to him about this, but instead just gave him a little wink and a smile as he walked into the school with the rest of his classmates. After the first few hours of classes I found myself on recess duty, walking the playground with Chase following in my wake. I stopped and began to talk to him, “Chase, you dressed up today. Could I ask you why?”
Chase smiled and said, “Well Mr. Z, you were gone all last week and I knew you were coming back today and, well, I just felt like dressing up.”
As Chase and I walked the playground together talking, I began to remember that time as a boy when my little brother had copied my story. I’ll admit I hadn’t thought about this story for quite some time. As I did I smiled. My mom was right when she’d said that one of the greatest compliments we can give to others is our emulation of them.
I spoke with Chase’s mother this evening. In our conversation she said that Chase had had worn his white shirt and tie for several of the days I was absent from school. She also said that last night he was adamant that his white shirt needed to be laundered; it needed to be clean in order for him to wear again at school. “I think he was trying to impress someone,” she said.
Impress someone he had.
When the end of the school day arrived I thanked Chase. I thanked him for the compliment he had given to me. There are no words more powerful this boy could have spoken to his teacher which could have sent a message greater than the one he did by simply coming to school wearing a white shirt and a tie.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Friday, October 26, 2007
I have tried to compose a blog several times now, and nothing seems to come. The only line I’ve had thus far is, “Life can change on a dime.” I think that Kathleen Kelly, Meg Ryan’s character in You’ve Got Mail, summed up how I am feeling perfectly when she said,
“Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life. Well, not small, but circumscribed. And sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book [or saw in a movie], when shouldn't it be the other way around? I don't really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So goodnight, dear void.”
That is it.
Monday, October 15, 2007
One of these trees was alive and the other was dead. Both had gnarled bark and each was stooped, as if standing straight had been far too much. However, it looked as if one of them had just given up.
Is this not a metaphor of life? That there are many around us still in the land of the living, but inside are “dead” because they’ve given up?
As I sit there and gaze at these two trees, I am faced with a daunting question...which of these two am I?
Sunday, October 7, 2007
Thanks, Grandpa Rufus…I couldn’t figure that one out all on my own.
I soon gave up my attempt, passing it all off with a laugh and wandered up the trail, after all, Rufus and this wife had wanted to use the bridge to get their picture taken by their son and I was in their way. As I walked along the trail alone and in complete silence, I was lost in thought...I was thinking of ways which I could reacquire my Mp3 player. Undoubtedly, rainbow trout were even now enjoying the sounds of Nickel Creek or had started listening to the 7th Harry Potter audio book...they probably wanted to know what was going to happen with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named just as much as I did. It was at this moment that I came up with my ingenious plan to get my player back…
I very carefully took my stone and repeated the “fall” just as it had happened before. I watched carefully as the rock quickly sank into the water, not five inches downstream from its point of entry.
Oh, and by the way, I was wrong with what I’d originally said…that picture is actually worth $103.