When I speak at schools, a teacher will often come up to ask if I wouldn’t mind wearing some kind of amplifier/microphone thingy around my neck for a student who is hearing impaired.
And of course I don’t mind. I put it on and forget about it. Easy.
Styles vary, but it usually looks something like this.
After a presentation last Friday at Northbrook Junior High, about 25 miles north of Chicago, a small female student approached to ask for the return of the assistive listening device that hung around my neck. She had a nice smile, a sweet presence, and I liked her immediately. We chatted for a short while. I asked how she managed when people didn’t wear the device, and about lip reading, and getting by. I told her that I suffered from hearing problems myself, a surgery with a specialist in Ohio and a second one planned. I understood, on a personal level, how terribly isolating hearing loss can be.
We said goodbye. As she left, I commented to a nearby teacher about how much I liked that girl. “She’s probably a writer,” I added. You can often tell. She was thoughtful and attentive, a watcher, an observer. In my experience, those are the types who make writers. The quiet ones. And there’s that other thing about writers: it’s something you sense in people, the way they absorb their surroundings. You can tell there’s something going on between the ears.
It’s rarely the way they talk, but more the quality of their listening.
“Yes, she’s a very good writer,” the teacher informed me.
A few minutes later, my friend, Erin, was back. She handed me a poem. A small group of teachers and I were about to have lunch in another room. But I read the poem while Erin stood by, watching. And finally, when I reached the end, I told her that it was incredible, that I was moved by it, that I admired and envied her talent. “You are such a great writer,” I told her, and I meant it. Erin smiled, a terrific smile, and told me that I could keep the poem. And I did, but not until I got her autograph. In green ink, no less.
Erin Rosenfeld. The writer.
I don’t know. I do a lot of school visits, a lot of blabbering about me, me, me. But it’s always these small moments that make it worthwhile, that make me feel like there’s value in it. When out of the blue a connection is made, and I meet somebody like Erin, and maybe in some small way she’ll remember this moment, for I know I’ll remember her. So much talent, insight, and depth of feeling in someone so young.
So here is “Logophile Poem,” by Erin Rosenfeld. As I understand it, Erin wrote it about a year ago. Words, words, words. Coming from a young girl who leans in and listens hard. Who reads lips. Who watches. Who see things that others might miss. And who in her own way hears the music on a deeper level than us all.
I’m glad I met you, Erin. You struck a chord in me. Keep writing.
A special shout out to Annette Farmer, a most awesome librarian (and triathlete!) who worked so hard, along with Marc Goldstein, to bring me out to Illinois in the first place. Thank you.