Questions from a High School AP Literature Class

I was relaxing in a beach chair, covered with sun-screen guaranteed to protect me from jelly fish, squid, snaggle-tooth sharks, stray footballs and sunshine. I hadn’t been on the beach long enough to have a beverage in my hand.

I was minding my own business when they walked up. When I’m on the beach, which doesn’t happen very often, especially in March, I’m not thinking about strangers wanting to ask me questions, but that’s exactly what happened.

Two young men, high school seniors, polite, very well spoken, and smiling, approached me and introduced themselves.

“I’m John, and this is Tim (not their real names), we’re seniors in high school. For our AP Literature Class, we have to write a paper containing information we collect from strangers. Would you be willing to answer a few questions?”

I looked at the two young gentlemen and thought for a moment. “Let me ask you a few questions first.” They agreed. “Where will you be going to school?” I asked.

“I’m going to Vanderbilt University to study computer engineering,” Tim answered. “I will be studying pre-med at University of Florida,” John said.

“Do you want my credit card and Social Security numbers?” They both laughed and said no. “Ok, I’ll answer your questions,” I said.

They asked my name and age, and what I do. “Dale, I’m almost 70, and I’m a retired middle school counselor,” I said.

“Here is the first question,” Tim said. “What is the most meaningful part of your life?”

Without hesitation, I said, “My family.”

“The second question is, what character trait do you believe is most important?”

I thought for several moments before answering. “Patience,” I finally said.

“The third question is, what do you believe the world needs more of?”

“I’m supposed to say tolerance, so I’m not going to say that. I’m also supposed to say acceptance, so I’m not going to say that,” I said. I thought about the question for several more minutes. “Forgiveness,” I said.

“Number four, what is the best advice anyone ever gave you, and who gave it?”

This question was troubling to me. I didn’t want to give the answer I knew was the truth. I honestly didn’t want to give credit to one who failed in so many important ways to be what he should have been to me. “The best advice I ever got was, ‘Just act like you know what you’re doing,’ and it was my dad,” I said.

Tim said, “The last question is, if you could be anything, what would you be?”

Again, I pondered it for a few moments, and said, “A published writer.”

The two thanked me and went on their way. It was really a privilege to talk to them. I felt honored that they chose me, and I wondered why they picked the old guy out of so many younger beachgoers.

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