The Love 100 Hearts Project .1
- Mr. Roman Borgerding
He was a tall man with white beard and soft spoken voice. He did not talk much as far as I could remember and I did not want to be in his class. I had just finished taking English as a Second Language and could barely write short sentences. I was graduating from “This is a house” and “This is a chair” class. They said I needed more English language requirements in order for me to graduate from high school and so they put me in his “Creative Writing” class with Mr. Borgending as my teacher.
The first day of school, I sat in the middle row, just enough to hide behind some of the kids in the front rows, yet safe enough so the teacher could not stand behind me. I don’t remember if we had any proper introduction, the only thing I still remember was what he said “Everyone, take out a piece of paper and write me a short essay, start now!”
I froze, my heart beat faster and faster, my fingers were gripping the pencil tight, and I started to sweat. Mr. Borgerding walked around the room, up and down, back and fourth. And then out of nowhere, he stopped in front of my desk. I lifted my head up with teary eyes… and I said: “I can’t write, I just can’t”, and with that I looked down to my desk trying so hard not to cry. He lowered his body to the ground so that he could look into my face, with the most gentle voice, he said to me “You can do it, just hold your pencil up, start to move it around, and make words. Just keep it up, do not stop, just make words, you will be able to write”
I bit my lips, held up the pencil and started to form words. I was too afraid to stop, I did not want him to come back, so I kept moving the pencil around, and words started to come alive. Fifteen minutes seemed like a few years. I looked down at my paper and to my surprise found a short paragraph. That was a miracle, my very first English paragraph! I was 17 years old and it was the beginning of my second year at Hopkins high school.
I started to write short simple stories with my straight up pencils from that day on. Our life was very boring after school so there was not much to write about. Also, if the stories were too complicated, it would be much harder with my limited vocabulary. Somehow, Mr. Borgerding loved my stories. He circled a big A on top of each paper before he handed them back to me. They were very very short stories. I wrote about a trip to the library, the windshield wipers in the snow, the snowman without a heart. Sometimes, I began to forget that he was there, I started to look forward to coming to his class..
On the last few days before the winter break, I came home and found 2 letters in the mail. They were sent by Mr. Borgerding, one addressed to my parents and the other one to me. He wrote using his exquisite handwriting:
Today there are no students. I look out of the window. Outside is snow. It all says snow: ground, road, trees, sky. Near, far, it’s all snow. And as my eyes delight, my mind wonders: What is necessary for a thing to be beautiful? I remember your essays and read them again. They are beautiful; I know that because they delight me. But what in them gives the power to delight the reader? They have this power because you have insight, the ability to observe more closely than others, to know the essence of a thing _a library encounter, a journey. Also, you have judgment _ the ability to select those details which are significant, which isolate your experience from all others’ similar experiences, without losing the universal quality, the essence of the experience. And when you express your insight and judgment you give it a grace, because you have an ear for language. You hear, you know its rhythms. No wasted words. None extra that stand in the way to trip up the needed ones.
Thank you for what you have written, Their beautiful delights me.
Roman Borgerding 11/19/81"
“Dear Mr. & Mrs. Nguyen
Your daughter Mai has a special talent. Her natural ability to write makes her an unusual person….If she continues to work hard at developing her talent she can become an important writer in this country.
Roman Borgerding 11/19/81”
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