I did a student assembly while I was in South Florida for about 10 different high schools on Tuesday at the African American Library of Broward County (great facility, BTW) – and it was a home run.
So many of the kids had read my books before I even entered the auditorium that you could feel the buzz before I ever said a word. And by the time I was done, I think it felt to everyone in the room (the students, their teachers, the administrators in the district, me) that we had just bonded at a very deep level through books. Truly, it was a rip-roaring day.
And then I went to sign books – something I love to do cause hey, there were years and years and years of my life spent wondering if ever anyone was ever going to ask me to sign a book I’d authored (or if anyone was ever going to publish me, for that matter). The lines were long and boisterous.
I left feeling wiped out. Spent. I pour a lot of energy out when I am “on stage” – especially for student assemblies – but there was a feeling of contentness underlying the tiredness. At the risk of sounding immodest, I’d done good and I knew it. (However, it did takes me about 10 hours to prepare for those 75 minutes… another story indeed.)
But my grandfather could not make it to the event. He’s wanted to see me speak for years however, between the wheelchair, the early start time, the drive to the destination and so on, well… it was just going to be too much for him.
Apparently, George Gershwin really, really, really, wanted to study music under Ravel. And when Ravel saw Gershwin’s stuff, he told him no. Refused.
Ravel told him, “You don’t want to become a second rate Ravel when you have the talent to become a first rate Gershwin. So go be George Gershwin.”
Which he did.
It was a touching moment between my grandfather and I. (I blogged the other day about me throwing a surprise 90th for him – and WOW, was he surprised. 75 people ended up making it from across the country, too – a real testament in so many ways to him.)
Now, I’m no Gershwin. But I have been raised by people who did encourage me to be me… and I fear that when I look out at our schools today, encouraging out kids to be who they are – as opposed to trying to force them into who we want them/need them to be – is a frightening and omnipresent phenomenon.
Even after nine decades, he still has more to teach. God Bless You, Grandpa Alvin.