Monday, March 2, 2009

Supermarket Stories

The other day, I was in the supermarket. It was a Sunday, the day before a predicted snowstorm. The lines at the checkout were long so I grabbed a magazine to pass the time. I became so absorbed in what I was reading, it was my turn before I knew it. As I moved to the conveyer belt to unload my overflowing cart, I glanced behind me. There was a much older gentleman with five or six items in his wagon. With all I had, this man would easily be waiting an extra ten to fifteen minutes for me to finish so I offered to let him go ahead of me. His response surprised me. His eyes welled with tears as he graciously accepted. He went about his business and as he was leaving, he turned to me and said, “Thank you so much. I’ll be sure to pass it on.” Now it was my turn to well with tears. This simple, sincere gesture had assumed some greater meaning. I was moved that he was moved. It felt good to have made a difference in somebody’s day.

The reluctant writer is the nemesis of every writing teacher. We have all had the conference where a child insists that they have absolutely nothing of value to write about. The only things they ever do is go to school, go home, watch tv, and play video games. According to them, their lives are boring; therefore, they have nothing to write about.

In talking with students like this, I have come to realize that they think they have to live fantastic lives in order to be a writer. Part of being a writing teacher is helping them realize that fantastic is a state of mind. They need to come to understand that they don’t have to have taken a fancy vacation or experienced something extraordinary in order to have a story to tell. Great ideas are lurking everywhere. Even in the supermarket.

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