Submitted by syntaxfactory on January 20, 2016 - 6:20pm
Last night, I was messaging a friend about my class today. With the right friend, you think differently about everything that matters.
Tomorrow, I teach "The Things They Carried" in my class. It's a story about Vietnam. It's a book of stories, really; the title of the book is the title of the first story.
It's a story about what soldiers carry with them -- the 85 pounds of equipment they carried into war, and the psychological stresses that they brought with them into the war, as well as the psychological scars the war created in them.
I always get nervous when I teach this. I took one ROTC course in Military Leadership, mostly because I wanted to know what I was rejecting when I applied to be a conscientious objector. (I do not feel that way about other things -- I don't need to try heroin to know it's not for me. But military service was different -- part of my family, for one thing.)
I lectured on literature about Vietnam in Crookston, Minnesota once, at the request of my friend, Mark Huglen, co-author of a book called "Poetic Healing." An auditorium full of high school students forced to attend read this story aloud, then one of them asked me "how much did all of this equipment weigh"? I replied, I didn't know.
A voice from the back of the auditorium yelled, "85 pounds."
I realized that I was talking, as a teacher, about the life he lived. I felt humbled. These stories are not mine to tell.
I hope, though, they are still mine to teach.