It all began in fifth grade. Our teacher, Miss Meyer, gave us a writing assignment. We were to describe one of our classmates, in any way we chose. and write about a page about that person. But here’s the catch: We could not use their real name.
I puzzled over this for a couple of minutes and began writing. I chose to describe my friend Danny. Danny was the opposite of me: Big, strong, an athlete, gregarious. He was also a little full of himself, but no more than many fifth graders.
Rather than just describe him, I imagined a story in which he was the major character. Actually it wasn’t a story, it was a parable. I allowed him to discover how much more popular and well-liked he would be if he took time to think of others, give them credit for their accomplishments, and not always put himself first.
Miss Meyer selected several of us to read out stories out loud. When the first two were read, I realized that by writing an actual story rather than a description I had probably done something unusual. I started to feel self-conscious when she called me name. I stared at the paper, afraid to look up.
When I finished, I looked over to my left and there was Danny, half-way out of his chair, his face a shade of red I had never seen before. But, when our classmates began laughing and applauding, he resumed his seat, deciding not to remove my head from my shoulders.
Also, lo and behold, he began emulating the character in the story, complimenting his classmates and becoming just a wee bit less self-absorbed.
I realized this writing thing was a sweet gig.