Before another One Question Wednesday rolls around at the feet of Josie Two Shoes of Picking Up Pieces, I thought I’d best respond to her question in response to my question the Wednesday before last. [You got that straight, right?]
Her question to me is:
Of all the people who have played some role in your life, which one has influenced you the most strongly and how? What lessons did you take away from that experience?
I throw her an easy-peasy question about a past love, and she sends me that? I’m tempted to never ask a question of her again. [Right. You can read my question and her answer here.]
Enough stalling. I would say the person who influenced me the most strongly was Dale. He came into my life when I was a sophomore in high school, very much a stoner although not falling onto hard times (such as bad grades or suspensions or being busted) because I was quite intelligent and I had incredibly good luck.
Dale was a theatre teacher. [Did you note the “re” in “theatre”? It mattered back then.] The high school had a hell of a theatre set-up. It was a new school, only four years old by then, and another teacher was needed in the theatre department.
I won’t go into great detail about the prick who was the head of the department. Suffice it to say he was a prick who favored girls who rubbed his back. Yeah, not my type of guy. In walks the 23-year-old Dale, standing in sharp contrast to the rode-hard-and-put-away-wet mid-40s Virgil Carrington “Pat” Jones, Jr. [Yeah, that’s how we had to refer to the asshole.]
Dale saved me from being a nobody in that place. He offered me solutions other than drinking and smoking. He and his wife opened their homes and their hearts to me. When my parents separated in the spring and ultimately divorced a year later, he and Claudia were there for me. They were the counterbalance to the bad things swirling all around me.
We suffered through an estrangement (or two) before I showed up on his doorstep on the eve for my departure for college. He forgave me. They never wrote me off.
What lessons did I take away? That everyone is deserving of care. That teenagers are stupid, but they grow up eventually, and they can pay it forward to others in need of care. That forgiveness and love must go hand-in-hand if we’re ever to make it in this often neglectful, often unfair, and often scary world. That making a difference in just one person’s life can make a difference in so many other people’s lives.
[Now, go offer a hand to someone in need. Yeah, you. Go on. You’ll be glad you did.]