Last updated: March 27. 2014 11:11AM - 792 Views
Martha Reed Johnson Storyteller

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We all must overcome challenges and limitations, some of which have haunted us for years. I set a goal a year ago to begin writing my stories. My dad had set the challenge after my first CD was released when he asked me, “What’s your next goal?”

Writing is a challenge for me. As a girl I wrote all the time and still have my old journals tucked away. I sometimes bring them out and read them to the middle school girls I work with in my capacity as a school counselor. They usually get a kick out of the fact that I was not much different from them – similar worries, fears and hang-ups. But I essentially stopped writing after a college professor told me I had no talent for it until my Dad challenged me with, “What’s your next goal?” I decided I wanted to write again.

Each week as I write I hear those long ago spoken words of my freshman English professor, “no talent.” I write anyway, drowning out her voice with that of my father’s, “What’s your next goal?”

While going through my dad’s desk one day, mom found a letter I had written to them from college in February 1984. Curious as to why Dad had saved the letter, I read it right away. I was quite surprised by the letter and by my ability to “write to persuade”. So here’s my letter from 1984:

Dearest Mommy and Daddy,

First let me say that I love you both very much and I know that you love me too and care about my welfare I would never ask you for anything if I thought you didn’t care. I guess I’ll get right to the point — I need money. I figure approximately $200.00 (or $100.00 each) ought to do fine for the semester.

Before you decide to disown me let me explain. You see my problem is I didn’t earn any money over Christmas to bring back with me. Last summer I earned money which helped me out with my financial woes last semester. This semester I have no savings account to draw from to buy such necessary items as soap, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, laundry detergent, contact solution and such. To add to my financial burden, I have (mistakenly) convinced Brad that it’s not terrible for me to pay for a movie once in awhile (mom I know you’re happy about that).

Of course, if you think it will build my character to live without the necessities of life (as listed above with the addition of change to do laundry), I’ll be glad to oblige and get kicked out of school for body odor in the most offensive degree, at least that’ll save you from next year’s tuition increase.

The letter was signed, ‘Smelly & Spoiling in Maryland,’ and enclosed was an envelope for either the check or the spare change.

In case you’re wondering, I did not get kicked out of college for offensive hygiene. I did get a second job shortly after this letter was written. Perhaps if I had submitted this letter to my English professor she would have changed her mind about me — or at least given me some spare change.

As I think back to the years I didn’t write, I regret that I let two little words, “No Talent” haunt me and stifle my voice . But for today, I’m still writing. Thanks Dad, for saving that letter.

Martha Reed Johnson is a member of the Story Spinners Storytelling Guild. She lives in Florence, S.C.

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