Sunday, October 14, 2012

One True Thing from Mr. Looney: Love is Effort, Not Entitlement

As a fifth-grade student, I was confused, insecure, hopeful. Very confused, very insecure, very hopeful. And when I walked into my first day of class that year at John F. Kennedy School in Windsor, Connecticut, it took only moments for my young brain to register that this year was going to be something beyond cool; it was going to be magical.

Mr. Looney stood at the front of the class, holding a pen like it was gold. He talked about stories, he talked about Robert Frost (his favorite poet), he talked about Flair (the name for his self-designed writing program that included enough inspiration to light a rocket ship), he talked about love, about the stuff that matter sin life, and about the power of learning. His curly hair rising off his head like ideas-made-tangible, Mr. Looney became, for me, the very essence of creativity and passion.

He encouraged all of his students to write in ways that made our hearts beat fast. As I previously shared on author Peter Salomon's blog Mr. Looney's Flair program included lots of creative writing,  revision, reading to one another, and sharing our imaginative narratives and ideas with him and with the class. We kept folders, and I often wrote about these family vacations my family took to Cape Cod. Only two hours away from us (Windsor, Connecticut), nevertheless we always managed to get lost, and we’d end up taking four or five hours, easy, and there’d be chaos in the car–until finally, we’d pour from the navy blue Ford station wagon onto the Mayflower Beach, build a sandcastle big enough to shame a blue whale, and watch the tide take it away, piece by piece. Mr. Looney laughed with tears in his eyes as he read my stories–and the way he made me feel like I could use words to create mood, emotion, possibility…well, that never left me.

Mr. Looney touched something inside me and woke it up. And ever since, I’ve tried to never let that part of me go back to sleep. 

When all of us students got Mr. Looney Robert Frost poetry books as teacher-gifts, he smiled and said thank you as if each one was a divine gift from God, shuttled to Earth straight to his desk, and it wasn't until years later that I finally asked myself, How many duplicate Frost collections must he have!? But Mr. Looney is the kind of man for whom there is never enough poetry, never enough life and love and passion and joy: because he creates it. His energy and enthusiasm couldn't be contained, and both sprtead out to all of us--his students. The reverberations and ripples are endless today: a whole army of story-loving (and living), imagination-thriving kids whose hearts he touched in remarkable ways that still walk with his words today, decades later.

So it's an honor to include ONE TRUE THING from a man I've admired for many years, my fifth grade teacher. 

Love is Effort, Not Entitlement
by Bob Looney

I have learned no person should expect lasting love or friendship from another.  These are not entitlements; they require effort.  You need to nurture the relationships which are important to you.   As you grow and develop, you must display tolerance and acceptance of the inevitable changes in others.  Ego is a detriment to a relationship.  It is not beneficial if you think it is important to consider whether you or the other has given more.

Yes, loving relationships require diligence and effort, but they are worth it, for they give incalculable meaning to our lives.