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One of the things that has changed my life the most is that I have learned to let go. But it is a lesson I started learning a long time ago. And possibly the most difficult thing we can learn.

When I was much younger, I was so full of rage and hate. Mostly directed at myself. Most of my childhood and youth was spent feeling terribly lonely and worthless. I really had nothing positive to cling to. So, I guess I clung to the hate and the pain. Every slight event took on huge proportions. Needlessly.

On the flipside, every kindness, every smile was taken to be a sign that someone loved me deeply. you can cue James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” here. While I really don’t like the song, I know exactly what he means.

I cannot exactly say why it changed. Hell, I can’t remember when it started to change. But there is one event that marked it quite clearly. I was still living with my mum, in my early to mid twenties. It was a beautiful summer’s day and I walked down to the bank to take out some money to pay her for board. It must have been about $120. Foolishly, the money was just folded up and put in my pocket.

I must’ve had my hand in the pocket and taken it out because all of a sudden the money started blowing down the street. Chasing after it, I was really amazed that other people were helping, but we weren’t quick enough to get it all. I must’ve lost just over half of it. I got home and calmly said to Mum “Oh, sorry, I’ve got to go back down and get some more money. I just lost most of it in the street”. She was flabbergasted. It was so unlike me. The me she knew at the time would have been raging. I think something just clicked in me, realising that there really was nothing I could do about it.

For many years, I still reacted badly to events in my life. Still had the rage. Maybe it was growing up (finally) or maybe it was some of the things I had to face. But things started to take on a different perspective. Starting on anti-depressants was probably a fairly big part of it too.

The next major thing was when I was told I had some brain tumours. The old me might have been apoplectic, but the new emergent me understood that, again, there was nothing I could do, and that I didn’t even know what if anything was wrong. I could only wait, and look at it analytically.

But these last few years of having my online life have been another big step. The chances I have had to reach out to others, to share my experiences, to share theirs. Real contact.

In fact, just the last year has been fairly major. I have written previously of a young friend I had been helping. Not long after I started trying to give her hope, she tweeted that she was going to end it all. I was beside myself. What can I do?  She is just so damned far away! Did I do enough to help? What did I do wrong??  Well, it turned out that she was (thankfully) unsuccessful in her attempt. But more recently we discussed this issue and whether I would be disappointed if she took her life. I advised that I would never be disappointed. That I would miss her terribly, but I have to believe that I can only do what I can, and she has to make her decisions in life. And when another tweet came suggesting serious self harm, I was sad, but knew that (to put it bluntly) it is not my problem.

A course I was recently sent on by work put words to it. Detached empathy. To understand people. To feel (a shadow of)  their pain, to reach out. But over all of that, to respect them enough to know they can make their own decisions. That you are not responsible for them.

And it was this last that helped the final piece of the puzzle slot into place.  To finally understand that I can only do what I believe is right. To know with absolute certainty that I am a good person, making the best decisions I can, helping people as far as I can. And whatever anyone else decides…well, that is their call.

When my Mum died a while back, I actually felt no sorrow. I knew she was where she wanted to be. And with her death, some of the truths of what I have always known hit home.  We hold onto things because we cannot handle the idea that we are not in control. That our actions have to mean something, or that we have certain expectations that must be fulfilled.

Grief, after all, is a selfish feeling. I don’t mean that in a bad way. Just that it is all about us, not them. We don’t feel grief that someone has died or left, we feel grief that we have lost them.

I’d like to leave you with this video. There are other versions of this song. Like John Barrowman’s dedication to past pets. But, being a Buffy fan, and because I adored Tara, this is the one for me. I warn you – you will cry. [edited to make the video embed properly)

Today, the me I am now, just feels SO good.

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In my previous post I talked about a young French woman who I am helping through some tough times. Here is her story, in her words.

To everyone who is reading this little article. Forgive me for my English, I am French. You have already heard about me, I am Cece (Cecile). Let me tell you the whole story that is bringing me down since now two years.

I became friend with a girl, like really friend, who has learnt that her father was very sick and I’ve been there for her along the way to his death. I was kind of in love with her and I didn’t see how she was treated me. I was doing everything for her, just like a best friend would do, but it seems like I was her but I wasn’t hers.  She was yelling at me for no reasons and I thought it was because of her father’s illness. Maybe I was wrong or right, I don’t know. It’s confused in my mind at this moment, all these awful memories… We had kind of a final exam and she told me that she had a boyfriend who was a drug addict and that is why she has not succeeded her exams and because that she has lost her father in April. I agree it is hard to lose your dad but… lying about your boyfriend and attacking your best friend? She told me he was at the funeral but I was looking at her straight in the eyes and I’m sure he wasn’t there. I’ve never seen any pictures of him, he was supposed to be at her home but I’ve never seen him. She told me she has been pregnant twice, that she was his fiancée, but I’ve the feeling that… Nothing was true and I had enough of all of this.

That day of October 2012, I talked to her. Well, I talked to “her boyfriend” by messages on her phone number but I’m sure I was actually talking to her because I’m convinced he doesn’t exist. I said that she was awful with me and I’ve never had thanks for what I’ve done for her. She offended me of every bird’s name… She’s putting everyone on my back. No one is talking to me now at school… I’m falling every single day into the darkness.

Since four months I am falling and I’m still waiting someone to hold me through this. She’s bullying me, hurting me very hard and I told a teacher but no one believes me. I am feeling really bad, I am thinking of taking my life, I’ve been cutting myself a lot but I don’t feel pain from that. The only friends I have are on internet and I’m hurting them with my stupid behavior. I can’t help it. My nightmares are awful and I don’t want to talk to my parents about that, they have too much trouble. I’m afraid of seeing a therapist, because I think that I want to go through this on my own, kind of a fight with the monsters which are inside me.

A nice guy just asked me if I was okay, I told him yes. I lied, as usual. See why I am falling? I need someone to look at me in the eyes and take me into his/her arms and tell me I’m lying.

I just don’t know where am I now. I try to move on but I’m asking myself so many questions. What have I done? Was it my fault? Am I really guilty? Am I a good person? Should I have stayed? I’m in pain because I’m lost. I don’t know what I am doing here. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t born and then, I found out why I’m living, to help people who are going through tough days such as mine. I’m here because there are people who love me even if I don’t see them, even if I don’t feel their love because I’m hurt. I’m still on earth because I would cause the same pain to others. And I don’t want this to happen. I’m hurting people but they’re happy that I’m still here.

I don’t feel strong but there’s a quote from I don’t know who that is making me think the opposite:

“The people who are strong are the ones who wake up with a smile and fall asleep in tears.”

To whoever is in my situation, don’t give up. As Matthew Morrison (Will Schuester from Glee) said:

“Life gets better”

Don’t ever give up because you will please the ones who are bullying you. Keep living is proving them that they’re not strong enough to bring you down to death. Keep smiling through the days and don’t forget that one day you will be greater than ever, greater than them because in life, I’ve noticed it, the ones who are at the top of the world or famous, have been bullied but they kept fighting for a better life.

Nowadays, there is a famous actor, you might know him for his roles as Tony Stark or Sherlock Holmes. Robert Downey Jr kept fighting against his addictions to drugs. He wanted to taste the metal of the gun but he went through it. You know what he is saying after being ten years all clean?

“Listen, smile, agree and then do whatever the fuck you are gonna do anyway”

It doesn’t matter how you look what you feel, you have to keep in your mind that you are loved, some people care for you. I do. We all do. Yes, I am hurt, I want to leave this world but it doesn’t mean I don’t have those things in my mind. I am strong even if I don’t feel like I am. It’s something you don’t feel, but something people see in you and tell you.

I think I’m done here. If you need to talk, feel free to contact me on Twitter: @dreamsbydays

Musics:

Don’t Give Up The Fight – Revive
Gotta Be Somebody – Nickelback
If Today Was Your Last Day – Nickelback
Lost! – Coldplay
Fix You – Coldplay

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1ii8_coldplay-fix-you_music

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Most of you know that I am somewhat prolific on Twitter. For some time now, I have followed an American girl who runs an account called @AgainstSuicide. I have found the work of this young teen just so inspiring. in less than 18 months she acquired more than 100,000 followers. An amazing testament to her, and an appalling indictment on the state of society and its treatment of young people.

One tweet in particular popped up and drew my attention. It was from a 17 year old French girl. And my heart just broke for her because I could read in every single word she wrote the terrible feelings I had when I was at school.

I always struggle with this. A 46 year old engaging with teenagers over the internet. It smacks of grooming and just all-round creepiness and horror. But I try to be careful. I am always very up front about my age and intentions, which are simply to provide support when all else seems to have failed them. A friendly ear, a shoulder to cry on. Unconditional, unjudging, just someone to unload on.

This youngster, who I will call Cece (Hi Cece) had a huge falling out with her best friend and was being the subject of some real nastiness in terms of stories being spread about her, vicious put-downs, and she felt she just could not carry on.

One of the things I try to do with all my friends, everyone I encounter who is suffering, is to constantly repeat how, regardless of what else may happen in their lives, I care. Genuinely and completely. Even if I am a complete stranger, I still care. And reiterate how they are valued, they are valuable, and however weak they may think they are, there is an incredible strength just below the surface.

For people in Cece’s position, I often talk about my school experiences, being ostracised, bullied, hated, and trying to find my way through. I might be “old”, but I really, really have been there. I wasn’t sure how to approach this, but my first breakthrough came when I described exactly what it is like to lose a friend in that way.

It feels like your whole soul has been ripped out and there’s just this deep, dark hole left, full of pain. It becomes all-encompassing

This kid doesn’t want to trouble her parents either, because they have enough troubles of their own. That they won’t want to be troubled by her (supposedly unimportant) worries. I need to explain to her that, when their child is in pain, parents want to know, need to know. That her worries ARE important.

She often talks about how she’s fat, ugly, a tomboy. How no boy could ever like her. I started pointing her in the direction of many of my followers who are active in the fat acceptance movements.

I’ve tried to tell her my current philosophy. That bad things happen around us. They happen to us. And maybe we even do some bad things. But WE are awesome. When anyone asks how I am, I always respond “I am fucking awesome” and go on to say, if there are things that are not so great in my life at that time, maybe say “Work is kinda crap, but me, I am awesome”. And I think this is important. Distinguishing between our selves and events that affect us.

It really does break my heart because I know the pain. I spent so much of my youth (and a reasonable chunk of my adulthood) believing I was ugly, useless and unloveable. There were people who tried to “cheer me up” and tell me I wasn’t any of these things, but I never really believed them, not really. For a while I fooled myself that I believed them, but I didn’t. For the reward I get in sharing and using my experiences with others, I honestly would have gone through it a thousand times over. If I knew this would be the return, it would be worth it.

You are my cyberdad. I really think it

Possibly because they were really only said on occasions. What I needed was someone to stand by me, regardless of what else happened. Regardless of how I was feeling. Someone who was just always there. This, THIS is what drives me. The unwavering knowledge that others need this too.

As I have said previously, being there for people isn’t very difficult. It is rather like being on-call. For the most part, you don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to think about it. But for the people you are supporting, they KNOW you are there. They feel your presence with them, always. And if and when you are needed, you give as much time as you are able. You do make it clear that you also have other commitments, your own life, but whatever time you do have to spare is theirs.

It is kinda funny, Cece said a few time that I should just forget about her, and I have my life and don’t need to worry about a silly little 17 year old girl on the other side of the world. OK, I was embelleshing a little there. But the thing is, yeah, I don’t need to. I WANT to. That makes all the difference. I choose to be there to support people. I think I always will. Some “supporters” might say “Oh well, you’re ok, call me if you need me”. The more astute of us know to see through this.

I really hope Cece finds her way through this. She really is an incredible, beautiful young woman (I’ve never seen her, but do not need to in order to know she is beautiful). She, like us all, has enormous reserves of strength. Whether we realise it or not, whether we feel it or not, we have that strength. We just need someone to show us.

All of this is a continuation of my journey to change the world. One person at a time. Many of you are my dear friends because of this. Because of reaching out in a time of need. And I cherish each and every one of you. People might think that this is a very giving attitude, but it’s not. Because what I get back in return pays for it a million times over.

And for every person I have helped through tough times, I won’t deny it. It has been a bit of a strain for me. But I’ve got he energy for it. And because of doing so, I know there are others out there to lend me their strength.

Wel, I think that is about it for now.  Massive thanks to my nzsecretsanta for the notebook to record blog post subjects in. I really appreciate it. And I hope to be writing much more once again.

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We all do it, don’t we? Put ourselves down in one way or another. Usually we don’t mean it, not really. Or do we?

We say things like “Silly me!” or “It’s only me”. We tell ourselves we don’t really mean it, and that we really do value ourselves. But words are powerful. So much more powerful that we often realise.

When people ask me “How are you?” I have a very nasty habit of telling them. As far as I am concerned, if you don’t really want to know, don’t ask. And it works – the people who really do want to know how I am continue to ask it, those who only use it as a pleasantry tend not to ask it again. But I used to say that things were tough or that I was worried about this and that. Lately, I have taken a different approach. I reply with something along the lines of “I am fucking awesome, that’s how I am. My work/health/family/mental state might be kinda shit, but I am awesome. Thank you so much for asking.”

And I like this idea. The idea of differentiating between how I am and what is happening in my life. Events in my life have an influence on me, but they do not affect who I am, at the very core of me.

But our everyday language is full of self-deprecation. We are sorry a lot. Sorry for being honest, sorry for being who we are, sorry for helping others even. And especially among friends. I know that I have always tried to be very careful with what I say and do because I might not be seen as being good enough.

Well, 2013 is a marker for that ending. I know what and who I am, and I believe my dear friends, you my dear readers, know this too. I believe that, for me, it is time to cast aside my doubts, my fears, and act from my heart. I’ve learned the key lessons. And now it is time to forget them because they have become part of who I am.

And I want this to encourage others. We have to stop fearing ourselves, we have to start talking about ourselves as being the amazing, incredible, loving people we are. It is never “just” us. We are never “silly” or “stupid”. As I quoted in my post on The English Teacher:

Remember when you said you couldn’t do that speech? Well – you did. Let that be a lesson for all you do. Don’t defeat yourself first – there will be plenty of others who will try to do that for you.
I hope you’ve learnt something; I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself.

There are countless links I could offer you on the language of positivism. But I don’t think that will be of any additional use here. I have said many, many times, the power of words is incredible. Just a few words, or even one, can tear down walls, destroy people, or shine a light on a world of goodness, lift someone in need (often ourselves) up upon a pedestal.

I just want to end this first post of 2013 with a big thank you to my NZ Secret Santa for the lovely gift of a notebook to record my thoughts for blog posts. It will be much used, and I am honoured by your kindness.

Much love to all. And if you are in a dark place, if you find your world is full of negativity and doubt, please know that I am here for you. Someone to listen to your troubles, to yell at if you need it, or a shoulder to cry on, and arms to hold you should you be a hugs kinda person.

Thank you to everyone who has ever supported me, and I apologise for my absence. I shall return in strength this year.

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In a previous post I talked about “the strange girl” event in my life. Well, I guess this is where I tell you about it.

It was March 1985 and I was 18 years old. My oldest brother was getting married. I was really excited about it because, while I kinda had a crush on the woman who was to be my sister-in-law, I was just so happy to have a “sister”. She was 6 months younger than me and we just got on really well together.

Nothing could have kept me away from the ceremony. Although it very nearly did. The roads were wet, I was driving too fast and the car hydroplaned.

The ceremony was at Percy’s Scenic Reserve and it was just utterly gorgeous. The first wedding I’d been to. The reception, well, that was another matter.

I wanted to go, but the thought of going filled me with dread. I knew there would be all these happy people, love would fill the air, but The Dark Beast was stirring, and my loneliness, my fear of people, my certainty that I couldn’t, could never really connect with anyone filled me with a strange mix of terror, self-loathing, and just a desire to disappear.

But I went. The meal was lovely. The speeches were great. Made all the funnier when, as someone referred to the bride, my elderly great aunt took a sip of wine and loudly proclaimed “Ooh it’s a bit tarty isn’t it?”

But as everyone was having a great time, I sank deeper and deeper into my despair. I may have gone outside to escape and to just cry. I don’t know whether she saw me doing this or not, but at one point a young woman, who I thought was older than me, came up to me and started talking. Just talking. To me. With me. And was interested.

She kept telling me how special I was, how I was loved and worthy of love. And just holding me. I was overcome by sensations I had never felt before. A sensation of being loved. But beyond that, there was the strangest physical sensation.

This is where you might want to look away. I don’t know if any of you have ever had something drawn out from your body. Something long and sticky and horrible. But I had that strong physical sensation. As she was talking to me, and holding me, something was being drawn out. Something dark and nasty and horrible. All the pain, all the self-loathing, all the hatred and darkness was being drawn out of me and, I sensed, being taken into her.

My family gave me a bit of ribbing about hooking up with this girl and the hugging and kissing (I don’t think she ever kissed me). But at the end of the evening she gave me her name and phone number on a napkin and told me that if I EVER needed her to just call. There are some people out there that might think this is nothing special, a fairly common occurrence, but to me at the time, it was something mystical. This. Does. Not. Happen. To. Me.

It was some time later I found out who she was. She was the daughter of my brother’s friend. And she was 14.

I kept the number with me always, everywhere I went. My mind and heart were a blur of activity. I went through all the obsession thing of being hopelessly in love, of being certain she felt the same way, of being too scared to call.

When I was in another bad place a few months later, I did call but was asked “look, do you really need me right now?” and was crestfallen. My saviour wasn’t the one I thought she was.

Six months after the wedding, though, I met her again. My brother and sister-in-law were involved in a serious car accident. Rushing up to see them in hospital, in the Emergency Department, a young woman I didn’t recognise came up to talk with me. It was HER. She remembered me, she remembered the wedding night and what she told me.

She said that her mother had beaten her up. I later found out that she had actually self-harmed and had serious mental health issues, and had been seriously abused earlier in her life. That kinda made things click into place, why she connected with me.

But I never saw her after that.

Some people have wondered why I do the things I do, the way I reach out to people. This strange young girl is one of the big reasons why. Someone I’d never met reaching out to me, and at that point in time probably saving my life. I am sure she knew the impact of her actions.

To this day it remains one of the strangest experiences of my life. I may marvel at how I have become blessed to have so many incredible, loving, wonderful people in my life, especially having the true love of my life as my darling wife. But this event is something I can only describe as angelic. I really, truly felt saved.

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I look back on my past self and wonder how he ever survived. I think of myself back then, looking forward at the me I am now, and wonder how I could have ever become him.

A young man who thought he was unloved and unlovable. One with nothing but an interminable loneliness stretching out before him. With arms aching, a very real physical sensation of aching, arms that will never hold someone. My heart breaks for him. It is so sad. How he looks to this stranger in the future. How much he desired that man’s art and that man’s scope.  How he saw that future man, and how these things he desired most contented least.

That young man first really encountered Shakespeare’s 29th sonnet in the TV series Beauty and the Beast. He was transfixed with the “hideous” Vincent, and his tortured soul, but a soul of intense beauty. And the love that existed between Vincent and Catherine. The young man was overcome with emotion, how a simple sonnet expressed everything within him.

I remember studying this in school. What really struck me about it was the beautiful play on words – with “contented”. How it has the dual meaning of enjoyment and containing. These things he enjoyed most, he had the least of.

So how did young man became the one I am today?  One so full of love and hope, of joy and openness.  How did he transform from the youth who couldn’t write about himself into the author of this very blog?

There were certain markers along that journey. Strange events, full of grace. Many of which are written in this blog. A movie, a chance encounter with a strange girl (yet to be written about), finding a job where he excelled, falling in love with his soul-mate.

But there was also always something inside him.  He knew it was there, he just could never admit it. Because admitting it meant that he had a future that could be risked. It meant that he could rise up and risk being knocked down. I guess I just got tired of it. I got tired of being knocked down. And strangely, letting go was the answer.

There is one thing above everything else I hope comes from this. Someone recognises that young man in themselves. And they realise that the young man with no hope, with no prospects, and nothing but misery before him can turn into someone so full of life, power, and the ability to change lives, change the world.

To the young man I would say this: Strength hides itself deep within ourselves. It is always there. Biding its time. However bleak our present may be, the future is unknown, full of promise.

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After a few tweets from the lovely Miss Whanau and the wonderful Ali Ikram, I wanted to talk a bit about one of the most inspirational teachers I had.

His name is Trevor Williams, and he was (and still is) a teacher at Taita College. He was always regarded as something of a character, variously loved (“wow – he really gets us”) and loathed (“what a pretentious git”)  by students. He was always incredibly animated and ultra cool with his almost biker image and long pony-tail. But there are a couple of things in particular I want to share with you.

In the fifth form (that’s Year 11 to you young ‘uns) we were studying a book called I Am The Cheese by Robert Cormier. It is a book a still love to this day. The story essentially involves three different parallel plotlines.  One being a boy riding across three states to see his father in hospital, another story about a boy who is being interviewed by a psychologist and as it turns out recounts his family being put into witness protection, and a final plotline that I won’t divulge.  These stories interweave. There are points in each story that correspond to other points in the other two stories.

“Whenever you are on the edge of revealing something important in your past, you stall, voicing suspicions of my questions because you are afraid, because you are reluctant to face your past.” – I Am The Cheese

I muttered to the kid sitting next to me how it was like plywood. You know, the grain of the story line goes one way, then at another level it goes the other way.  Trevor heard this as he was passing and stopped mid-sentence. Turned to me and mouth agape asked me to repeat it.  Being shy, I was reluctant to do so, but he insisted, and for him, I repeated to the class. Saying how those interweaving storylines created a strong base, like plywood or a net, that holds the character in place.  And without them, he would fall straight through.

…there are the Never Knows. Never knowing who can be trusted. Never knowing who that stranger in town can be.

He was astounded as if it was the most amazing thing he had ever heard.

When I was leaving school at the end of the 7th form, I asked him for a testimonial. I will always remember one of the things he wrote:

David has an ability to see connections between seemingly disparate material

What I loved about this is that he remembered. I knew he was referred to that event two years earlier.

The other event was something more profound to me. In the sixth form I had a different English teacher. Our project for the year was to create a personal profile. We had to write a letter to ourselves at the start of the year, talking about who we are, where we hope to go, what we felt. Through the year, we had to just keep journals, write about ourselves at that moment in time, and essentially track our growth. At the end of the year, we had to write a second letter to ourselves, like the first. The objective being to see how we had changed.

At the start of the year, when we were told about this, I stayed behind and talked to the teacher (Desiree Mulligan) and said “I cannot do this. I am too shy, too terrified to write about myself like this.  Surely there is something else I can do instead”. But I was told to just give it a go.

The end of the year came all too quickly, and when we were told to hand it in, I had the cover page and nothing else. “I told you, I cannot do this. It just terrifies me too much”.  Trevor came to see me.  He said “You’re doing it – I will give you one weekend to writesomething. And I will give you a pass mark on the condition you agree to do something special next year”. He purposely did not tell me what that something was. So that weekend I had a go at it. Put a few things together principally about how introverted I was, some of my fears.  And of course, I got a pass mark (Accredited University Entrance it was in those days).

The next year, he told me what the special thing was. I was to be in the senior drama performance.  I recoiled in horror.  You have GOT to be kidding. I couldn’t do the damned profile, what makes you think I can do THAT??

Well, he coached me through. At one point, he took me into the AV lab where the performance was going to be held, went to the back of the hall and told me to sing. Any song I wanted.  “I can’t!  I don’t know how to sing!  Please don’t make me!”  But he did.  I think I chose “God Save the Queen” being something of a royalist in my youth.

Well, it was something of a turning point. I went through with it, and LOVED it. We performed excepts from JK Baxter, ARD Fairburn, John Mulgan and others. At the end of it, he gave each of us a wee present. Mine was a couple of books. Inside one was a note.

Dave,
Remember when you said you couldn’t do that speech? Well – you did. Let that be a lesson for all you do. Don’t defeat yourself first – there will be plenty of others who will try to do that for you.
I hope you’ve learnt something; I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself.

Trev.

I have never forgotten this. I still have the book (The Clowns of God by Morris West) – and the other one he gave,  Firelord by Parke Godwin –  and I still have the note inside it.

This is an example of how one person, one teacher, can change many lives. I genuinely believe I would not be the person I am today without him. And I know that the love I share with so many people, and the impact I have had on their lives would not have happened.

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