Dear Janet Tashjian,
I've reached a pivotal point in my life where I have to make one of the most attitude altering, and sometimes traumatizing, decisions of my existence. I have to decide what kind of person I am going to be. As teenagers in the twenty-first century we are bombarded by big-business advertisements, political agendas, celebrity divorces, materialism, corruption, corporate disasters, bribery, fraud, and at the top of the hit list; greed. It's tough to find the right kind of life jacket that will get you through this swirling frenzy of politics and consumerism. The rain keeps coming and the river only gets higher. I think your book may have shown me the right life jacket.
I am as guilty as the next person when it comes to buying things that I really just don't need. Like the people surrounding Josh Swenson, most people in my life, including myself are weighed down by many "things" we bought on impulse instead of need. It's incredibly easy to do nowadays, when all it takes to pay for something is the swipe of a labeled piece of plastic. All the guilt of handing over hard-earned cash disappears with the use of a credit card. After I was done reading the few chapters about Josh owning only seventy-five possessions, I took a break from the book to look at all the unneeded stuff in my room. There's a computer I never use, an Ipod that collects dust, and drawers and drawers full of clothes I never wear. Every time I walk into my room now I have that nagging voice in the back of my mind that tells me to take all that stuff and give it to someone who needs it. It's not as easy as I would have thought.
Another big idea from The Gospel According to Larry that enthralled me was his way of escaping the drag of the materialistic march of the world by biking and hiking to his little hole in the woods. I too have found my greatest peace in nature. There is something so serene and calming about being alone and unprotected in the environment. In one of his sermons he writes, "We are meant to be alone in nature. The word lonely never comes up." Just like Josh, I would not consider being alone in nature as being lonely. That quote has given me a completely new bearing on the way I perceive nature. I don't get into the outdoors enough, but when school starts to slow down, I hope to be able to take full advantage.
It was Josh's pure dislike of all the attention that made another big impact on me. At one point in my life, I had wanted to be someone famous. I wanted to be the person in the spotlight who was on the tube all the time talking to Barbara Walters and Andy Rooney. I wanted to make millions and millions of dollars. After reading about Josh's horrible encounter with this type of life, I have started to think that a life of fame and fortune would not be a life I would enjoy very much at all. I have come to realize that fame may be more like a prison with no escape from the constant attention of thousands of people.
This book has inspired me on many different levels, but the greatest influence it has had on me is to make me want to help people enjoy a better life. I feel like I am not contributing enough to the society we live in and want to make difference. I know it is cliché and has an almost "Miss Universe" ring to it, but I truly feel that with a little motivation in the right direction I could accomplish many good things. I am still just working on the blueprints, but the plans are coming together nicely and the project will hopefully benefit many people in the end.
South High School., Anchorage, Alaska
Teacher: Patti Irwin