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Perspective: Don't Close Doors


Be the one who writes back.

That's the moral of this story that comes from Sephora Woldu, a filmmaker and author of "Adventures in the Art of Rejection." She made sure to send her book to her second-grade teacher, Joy Hart.

“She was the first person to call me by my full name," Woldu wrote in April on the "Humans of New York" blog. "And that’s a big deal when you’re a second-grader," she said.

More important, her teacher praised her writing in class.

"When she read it to the entire class -- it was such a powerful feeling," Woldu said. "And after that I fell in love with it. I began to write my own little books."

Then Woldu moved away. She gave her address to a few teachers but Mrs.Hart was the only who wrote.

"I remember how surprised I was to get her letter. She wrote to me like a peer," Woldu said.

They traded letters over the years and Woldu was excited to send her teacher her first published book. Both women agreed to meet at the old elementary school in San Jose, Calif.

"She brought along some of the letters I’d written her over the years," Woldu said. "When she showed them to me, I asked her: ‘Why me? Why did you keep writing to me?’ ‘I write to a lot of people,’ she said. ‘But not everyone writes back. And you’re one of the ones who writes back.”

This story clearly underscores the importance of teachers and the real need for all students to be recognized for their worth and potential.

But what I also see is the importance of staying connected with those who mattered in our lives.

The importance of giving back to those who opened doors for us.

And why we all should be among those who write back.

I’m Lonny Cain … and that’s my Perspective.

Lonny Cain, a graduate of the journalism program at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, has been in the newspaper business for more than 45 years. He and his wife have three sons. They live in Ottawa, where he was managing editor of the local daily newspaper for 30 years, retiring in December 2014. He continues to be a columnist for The Times in Ottawa and is pursuing other writing projects.