I wish I could remember the name of my first-grade teacher. She made me fall in love with words. Before 10, I literally walked a mile to take out books from the library. Oh, the magic of the cover, the mystique of the print, and the aura of the book itself. She waved her wand over a value. She’s gone now. I wish I could thank her.
With much regret, I have to say that this enchantment wasn’t transferred to text books. Required reading was like working with steel balls off the assembly line. Funny, too, we were never told who wrote the words. I wonder if they had any fun getting them down on the page. I did a lot of day dreaming on them.
Reading still remained fun in a kind of subversive way—when it was not required. You may detect a little resistance to authority here. Maybe so. The idea that it was subversive really didn’t occur to me. Then, my new-found faith got me wanting to read all I could about religion. One or two of these books didn’t get on my pastor’s approved list. I read whatever I could get my hands on. One was Hallesby’s book, Prayer—simple, but very real—still somewhat of a classic. Kierkegaard’s Purity of Heart Is To Will One Thing moved me, shamed me, shook me, and opened my eyes. An old book found in the school library, a theology book written by a University of Chicago professor, made me wish I could go to school there some day. I got in over my head but it stirred me!
One fine afternoon during my sophomore year in high school, our English teacher, Marvin Sands, huddled us together, and read excerpts from the writings of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Thoreau’s words went straight to my gut. Emerson’s famous lines, "Whosoever would be great must be a non-conformist" and "Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," fired up my independent streak. Just as I had found my faith, I was now discovering my "soul." I don’t mind telling you, I sobbed inside. Something broke loose within me. I also realized that I had more of the mystic in me than I knew! Transcendentalism gave me a sense of universe and the consciousness that our whole existence has meaning!
I wish now that I could thank Marvin Sands, also. Too late! I suspect that his own perspective on life had been generated by readings such as this. If I hadn’t been so shy, I would have loved to go up to him and have him discuss these ideas further. I did not let go of him completely, however, because, as drama coach, he gave me a part in the class play.
There was a scene in which another student actor and I were on stage waiting for a third to arrive. The lines called for the other guy to say, "Here comes Edward." Which he did. But no Edward came. A scary silence followed and my knees shook. I tried to lighten up the situation with an ad hoc remark, "I thought you said Edward was coming." All the other actor could think to reply was: "No!" The curtain started coming down to rescue us from the situation. Ah! But wait, Edward was arriving. The curtain, just two-thirds of the way down, went back up again! At that moment, I saw Marvin Sands sitting by the back window, clapping his knees, almost falling off his chair in gustos of laughter. He loved it! Yes, Mr. Sands lit up my sky with his reading, and kept it from falling with his laughter!