Listen to Little Debbie

When I was in high school, I was the shortest kid in my class, and I looked like a twelve year old. Oh yeah, it was great back then. I got to talk to all the guys. They confided in me. Told me all their problems. Whined about their love life. Never once asked anything about me. Yada yada yada. I was a convenient match maker, a relationship counselor, the mediator.

But what I really wanted was someone to listen to me.

Being the cordial, shy young thing I was, I never spoke up, and as time passed I forgot how to speak. When it was other people’s turn to listen, I didn’t have anything to say. Most people eventually wrote me off as shy and didn’t waste time prying information out of me.

I never grew up. I’m still around 5’ or 5’2” or somewhere in between. During the early years of my career, I substituted at a middle school in Murfreesboro and suffered horrendous embarrassment at the hands of the Lunch Ladies. All I did was return my tray, and they screamed. “You’ve been here all year long. You know your tray doesn’t go here.”

Yada yada yada. The Lunch Ladies thought I was just another middle schooler, not a teacher. I tried to explain, but they wouldn’t listen.

I found my first real teaching job at the high school where I went to school. I’m still there. During my first years I blended in with the students quite well. It was kind of cool because I felt like an undercover agent in the halls. I listened and picked up all sort of useful information from their conversations.

But my co-workers were ruthless. The assistant principal gave me the nickname Little Debbie, and it stuck. You know what I’m talking about, right? He said I reminded him of the little munchkin on the outside of oatmeal pie boxes. My fellow teachers put a framed photo of Little Debbie on my desk. How clever. I tried to tell them I was nothing like the cherub-faced little snack cake, but they wouldn’t listen.

I finally started writing, and eventually I was published. I couldn’t believe people were actually reading what I had written. Wow. Finally, someone was listening.

Even today if people read my blog and leave comments, I am so grateful that I just want to hunt them down and give them a big hug. If someone actually talks with me—and not at me, my heart melts. I think one of the greatest gifts you can give a person is your attention. Look me in the eye. Ask me what I think, what I like, what I know, what I want, what I see. Okay—I confess. I stole those lines from Toby Keith’s song, “I Wanna Talk about Me.” But don’t you get what I’m saying?

Published writers, whether you write novels or songs or magazine articles, never take for granted the wonderful gift your readers give you. Even if you have never received a hefty royalty check, just the fact that readers choose you to listen to is pretty special.

Wow. Imagine someone curling up with your words at night. Or how about someone singing the song you’ve written? Pretty special, huh?

I’ve had Keith Urban’s tune “Put You in a Song” rattling around in my head for days. I like it when he sings, “And when they see you on the street, they’ll say ‘Hey, ain’t you the girl in that song?’”

Now there’s a topic for another blog. Oh, wouldn’t l love to be the girl in that song. I’d love to be the girl in any song. How romantic. I get giddy just thinking about it. But with my luck if someone did write a song about me they’d call it “Little Debbie.”

We writers all want to be published. But we can still change people’s hearts, minds, and spirits with our words even we don’t see them in a magazine or in a book. Our writing doesn’t have to be about us. Have you ever received a card, a note, an email, a Facebook message, or an honest-to-goodness handwritten letter that turned your day around?

Words have power. They can bless, or they can curse.

This year the seniors on my newspaper staff made me a very special gift, a scrapbook with their articles and pictures and headlines. They asked every member of the staff to write me a personal letter.

Tonight I sat down and read the letters again. I listened to what each one of them had to say, and I learned something pretty special. Despite the deadline tensions, the red marks, the ad pressures, the computer crashes, the staff drama, etc., my students recalled something special they had gleaned from my class or from me, and they wrote about it in my letter.

Their letters were proof they actually listened to me. What a wonderful gift.

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15 thoughts on “Listen to Little Debbie

  1. You always inspired all of us in my class that I can tell you 🙂 Everyone of us left that class with a little bit of your wisdom deep inside of us. I remember one time you caught me reading a romance novel that right now I can’t recal the title I do remember though that I was supposed to be reading The Scarlett letter and you told that if I liked romance novels I should try Jane Austin. I never did in school but a few years ago I picked up Pride and Prejudice and I have been albeit slowly making my way through all of her novels. 🙂 I still write a little bit too. Mainly just a few small poems here and there and occasionally I start a story. Currently I’m trying to come up with a little children’s story for my little girl. Lucky for her you taught me to think outside the box and to use my vocabulary so it won’t be just “see jane… see jane run” lol Thanks for everything Mrs. Lockhart

  2. Thank YOU Ashley. Keep writing. I would love to hear your poems or to read your children’s story! I think that’s wonderful. You inspire me.

  3. Communication is indeed important. Communication isn’t just a tool or a form of expression… it is an important part of life. That is one of the many things that you taught me …Its important for any type of a relationship to work… be it romantic, work-related, friendships, family, etc. I especially realize that now that I am away from home.

    I can connect with you about being talked to rather than talked at… I believe whole-heartedly that it is better to give people a piece of our heart rather than a piece of our minds.

    • I think I’ll just have to steal that part about giving people a piece of our heart rather than a piece of our mind. Words of wisdom. 🙂

  4. How much this was like me when I was in elementary school, the only difference was I was the tall girl who had to sit in the back! Tall, curly short hair, glasses! Ugh! The only thing that took a lot of my shyness away was music and people listened to me sing. If it wasnt for this gift God gave me I would have been teased more than I was!

  5. This was also a great read! How wonderful to be in position to influence young minds and show them the love in your heart. You validate everyone who reads this blog and that brings joy to the heart of many!

  6. Thanks so much for the thoughtfully worded, insightful email reply to my posted comment. I need your email address to reply via same. Think about me- today is THE last day of school with me being immersed in all the close of school teacher junk. Fire me off an email email note and I’ll reciprocate with teacher tales and, or even, all manner of words matched or misplaced words. Do you know if “the farm” will have wifi? I saw you folks just got a new ATT cell tower. ~jerrygriffies

  7. I’ll shoot ya one today. Wifi is available, or at least it was last year. If you look for the More than Music tent outside the actual Bonnaroo site by one of the campgrounds, you’ll have a place to recharge your phone and get computer access at no charge. They also serve coffee and tea at no charge 24 hours a day. If you have an emergency or just run out of soap, you can stop by there too.

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