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Lesson learned, Mrs. Wentworth, Mr. Clemensen
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So here I am, on the eve of my book signing, and can only think of one thing – the fact that I have the penmanship of a 1st grader. It was 2nd grade the first time I approached a teacher with this brilliant offer — “How about I just pass the tests, and we just skip the whole homework thing?”

The look on my teacher Mrs. Wentworth’s face is probably the look on your face right now. But I pitched my position like a defense attorney hoping to keep his flimsy case out of court. “Isn’t the most important thing that I learn the subject Mrs. Wentworth? You do such a good job teaching, I see no reason to go home and practice it – I’ve got it all down pat. No need for you to waste time correcting extra homework.”

 She didn’t go for it. She gave me a lesson in diligence. I dismissed it, believing diligence is not a virtue the talented need suffer.

Move far forward to my senior year of high school. I was visiting with my favorite faculty member, Vice Principal Vahl Clemensen, after I’d been sent to the office by my Remedial Math teacher – a math class that Clemensen had stuck me in half way through the year. (My welcome in various classes had been worn – and it was the only class he could find for me that period.) The beautiful part for myself, and quite annoying part for my VP, was that I also had an advanced algebra class the period before remedial math. It was during this weekly undressing of my spirit that he pulled up my grades in both classes.

“How on god’s green earth, can you have a C- in Advanced Algebra...and also in dummy math?!!”  I recalled my 2nd grade conversation with Mrs. Wentworth and said sheepishly “Diligence?” He did not find the humor in this, and had me removed from the remedial math class. I remember stating clearly “Why pull me out of that one? I can for sure pull an A with a little effort” but like so many that have governed my life, he didn’t want “a little effort” – he wanted “maximum effort.” He smiled back – “Diligence Chris” – and reassigned me to sit in front of his office during the rest of the year.  Lucky me.

 In my mind, showing up to sit in that chair for 3-months showed diligence. Sorry Chief, but the talented need not worry about that lesson or did I?

 When I started this column, I was intent on flying by the seat of my pants — winging it as often as possible. My column tag line of “It’s not Where ya do, It’s What ya do” was just as much an homage to the fact that I believe success isn’t dictated by where a person lives, but by what you are doing to be successful. But it was also a tongue in cheek shot, aimed at those that pushed the idea of diligence upon me my entire life. Sort of a “neener-neener” I’m still not trying – but getting away with murder.”

 And then Nina Frisby at the Manteca Bulletin office pitched the idea of turning “Manteca to a T” into a book. All she wanted was a few more columns. No problem, I’ll bang those out easily...tick tock...tick tock...

 Well c’mon talent do your thing.

 Oh that’s right – where are you diligence?

Then the pressure mounted to meet a deadline. Not a deadline for a column, one that’d end up lining a bird cage by Monday morning but something that I knew would be scribbled into the sands of time. I didn’t have the diligence behind the talent — the work ethic to put pen to paper and just write. I expected the magic talent fairy to plant something in my ear as I slept...

Writing is a strange animal. I never saw the point in allotting specific time – time to force myself to write. It seemed a senseless endeavor. After all, this column was supposed to come from a place of divine intervention – not a place of practice makes perfect. Or so I thought.

 It became clear that in writing, or whatever your chosen field – work, play, passion, or pride – that everything requires a level of diligence to reach your goals. 

  It took me 40+ years to realize that talent without diligence is waste, that the two work quite well together. And that most of us are endowed from a young age at one or the other. But if you choose to work at the weaker of the two for yourself, it tends to catch up. And that in fact talent should constantly chase and pursue diligence.

 Lesson learned Mrs. Wentworth and Mr. Clemensen.

  Anyway, I managed to put together a few new columns for the book. But had my sweet mother talk me out of submitting a few I’d written. “Some things you should just keep between you and your friends Christopher”. Sorry Tim Beattie, but the Legend of the Sonora pre-game “highlight” is something we’ll just have to share at BBQs or with elbows on bar tops.

 The moral of this tale of non-diligence? After 40 years of not doing homework, when you finally write a book for the town to see – and a book signing is organized – they will notice one thing for sure:  The scribbly chicken scratch penmanship of a man that has never done homework – and uses cocktail napkins for notes.

 See you tomorrow Manteca.

uTHE MRPS HOLIDAY BOUTIQUE will be the first weekend of December – talking place on Friday, Dec.,  4 from 4 to 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 5, from  10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 6, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. They are looking for vendors to rent a space. The fee is $125 for a 10x10 space. The MRPS Hall is located at 133 North Grant Street Manteca for more details or to get a registration form call Teresa 209-679-0316.

uQUOTE OF THE WEEK...“When you are content to be simply yourself, and don’t compare or compete, everyone will respect you.” Lau Tzu