Tears pooled in my fifteen-year-old eyes. A paper with rhythmic ink lines lay open on the principal’s desk between us.

He was an imposing man, Mr. S. And his bearing when wielding a paddle (concealed I knew somewhere in this room) provoked dread.

Still, my tears rose from a sting greater than the forthcoming whoosh of the principal’s paddle. My offense was serious. It was worse than serious, it was shameful and I felt it inside. Remorse. Not so much for having been found out. But for the deed itself.

The irony was the instruments I used to inflict pain. This I had done. Brought pain. Not by jagged rocks thrown through a classroom window. Not by flaming matches igniting a chemistry lab. Nothing menacing that way. A simple writing pad and ballpoint pen.

Now I was here in Mr. S’s office. Sitting silent across from him, hands on my lap, I reflected the ugliness of my act. No teacher deserved the mockery I scrawled on that paper. Not even her. A tear landed on my right thumb.

The teacher had become, over time, the object of whispered jokes by several students. Amused, I crafted a poem – humor of the worst kind – demeaning.

I was as dumb as my act was unkind – signing my name and passing it to a friend. He read it, grinned and passed it to another student.

I didn’t see my work of poetry again. Until now – two days later – when called to Mr. S’s office. There it lay on his desk. After blubbering my apology I bent forward and gripped my ankles. Whack. Whack. Whack. Whack.

While it is not the recommended way to appreciate the gravity of written words, it had its effect.

Drawn to reading.

Snail-slow that I was in making it through most books, I liked reading – throughout and beyond my teen years.

When a correspondence course on becoming a writer caught my attention I promptly scrounged up money and sent for it. Lacking discipline and on-sight support I foundered.  The appetite, though sidelined, ripened with time.

Elizabeth Elliot’s Through Gates of Splendor opened me to drama I hadn’t seen. Present-day disciples. Daring. Sacrificial. Its reading watered earlier seed. A thought flowered – One day I may put pen to paper.

Long since my visit to Mr. S’s office – the whack of his paddle, my new appreciation for the gravity of written words – I’ve fashioned a kind of purpose.

Through writing I’ll lift, inspire, encourage. And – at my work’s conclusion  – in good conscience, I’ll sign my name.

© 2015 Jerry Lout

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