Sunday, April 24, 2011

Gifts Given and Gifts Received

A wonderful thing about gifts is that they're free. They come without strings attached. There is no need to respond other than to say "Thank you." Some gift receivers show their gratitude by using the gift at the earliest possible opportunity, often in the presence of the giver. Some show their gratitude by sharing their gift with others.

This blog is new, but it concerns gifts that are very old and gifts that I want to share. I believe that writing is a gift that we have all been given. One of the people who gave me this gift of writing was my sixth grade English teacher, Sister Veronica Marie. Besides teaching us the elements of grammar, syntax, punctuation, and spelling, she also instilled in us a love for whatever had been well written and a strong desire to be part of that world of writing.

She also gave me another, related gift. At the end of each school year we all turned our books back, since they had been loaned to us and would be used the following year by the next class. As I walked up to Sister's desk to turn in my English grammar book, she handed it back to me, saying, "John Paul, you'll be needing this. I want you to keep it and use it. You like to write, so just keep doing it." I keep that Plain English Handbook, by Walsh and Walsh, here on my desk. It was a new edition that year, 1946, but has served me well ever since.

Perhaps this blog can be a place for me to give a few gifts to my readers. If I tell you a little about myself, you can let me know what sort of gifts you would like to see in future blogs. For forty plus years I was a faculty member, teaching psychology at McGill University, Smith College, and finally Michigan State University, where I taught in the psychology department and also the medical school (pediatrics). I taught courses in developmental psychology and as a clinician treated mostly children and adolescents. The books and articles I have written before this were either textbooks or journal articles based on the research I was doing with my graduate students. That research focused primarily on adolescent and young adult values, family issues, and the classroom as a community. But now I want to write books for children and young adults.

Finally, on the right side of this page you can see the blogs I follow. These are gifts I have already been given from other writers. I hope I receive some from you, a comment or even a blog of your own. We enrich one another's lives with the gifts we exchange. I hope that I have at least a few readers for this blog, and that among them is Sister Veronica Marie, who though she died years ago, is still with me in many ways. On this Easter, a day celebrating the Gift of Gifts for Christians, I hope she might look on this blog and say, "Just keep doing it."