Thanking the People Who Molded and Shaped Us

We all should focus some time on the people who made us what we are. Let me urge you to say 'thank you' a lot as you pass through this life.

It has been my joy and privilege to work as a writer and author for more than 35 years. Sometimes it seems as though the ideas just flow freely while at other times I feel like I am beating my head against a rock to force ideas to come shooting out. Actually, there has been one real constant throughout all of these years. I never know where I will be when the idea for a commentary or teaching program will strike me.

My dear friends, you are familiar with two of my favorites. These would be the cigar-smoke-laden parameters of the front porch of my lovely, little house here in Adelphia as supplemented by the quiet environs of my local house of worship. In the 1980's, 1990's, and early 2000's it was the Hope Lutheran Church in Freehold Township. Since 2003 is has been the Colts Neck Reformed Church here in Colts Neck, NJ.

Let me now add a new place to the list of thinking places. On Friday June 8, 2012 I was enjoying lunch at my favorite local restaurant. Yes, I was seated in a back booth at Connie's Restaurant in beautiful, downtown Farmingdale, New Jersey. I have been eating there since the Mandica family took over in 1972. However, I had been a regular at the old Connie's since I was a student in high school back in the 1960's. My waitress was Alison Hoffman, friend and fellow hockey aficionado of my daughter and son-in-law.

As is my way, I was reading the Newark Star Ledger newspaper while enjoying my lunch. I was reading the commentary on the op-ed page when I was suddenly struck dumb by the excellent prose of Stephan Whitty. He is a member of the Ledger's staff of writers. Many are the times when I enjoy his coverage of the entertainment community. Anyway, his commentary struck me right between the eyes and I felt compelled to pull out my notebook and start jotting down my thoughts on his thoughts.

Alison immediately knew that something different was going on, as I was scribbling a mile-a-minute and ignoring my salad. When she came over and asked what was going on, I shared my thoughts and my inspiration with her. Connie's is really a family sort of place for us regulars.

For those of you who may not follow the ways of the writer, the world recently lost one of the foremost practitioners of the art of writing. Science fiction icon Ray Bradbury had died out in California. Here was a man who spent the better part of seven-plus decades creating a wide variety of marvelous stories from that special world known as science fiction.

While it is not a genre that I personally follow closely, I am familiar with his work. My favorite is probably Fahrenheit 451. It is the premise of this novel that piqued my interest. In this book Bradbury spoke of a future world where firemen spent all of their time burning books rather than fighting fires. I read the book an also saw the movie. It was a challenging read indeed, but one that I liked a lot. Being a fireman, I found the concept challenging.

In his commentary, Mr. Whitty spoke of the tremendous impact that Ray Bradbury had on his life. He developed his love of writing through the reading of Mr. Bradbury's novels. He compared the normal reading bill of fare in his life (the Hardy Boys and Albert Payson Terhune's dog stories) with the special feeling he got when he read the Bradbury novels like this; "…Next to their practical prose, Bradbury's was like a pretty girl, flashy and flirty begging to be admired. It was writing with a capital W, and I liked it just fine."

Over the course of many years, Mr. Whitty gathered and read a wide variety of Mr. Bradbury's works. His reading and enjoyment of those fine literary works led him to decide that he too wished to be a writer. Unlike many of us, he got to form a relationship with his mentor. As a budding young writer for a newspaper in California he got to meet his role model when he reached out to call him at his home. That phone call started a relationship which bridged the decades.

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