Viewpoint: David’s gifts

Since this is the gift-giving season, it seems the perfect time to write about my friend David because if he isn’t a gift giver, I don’t know who is. His gifts don’t come from shops or gift catalogs however — they come straight from the heart.

I met David several years ago on the New Hampshire poetry scene where often, after taking part in readings, some of us met for coffee and to catch up on one another’s lives. The latter took a while for David as he was still struggling with his wife Barbara’s tragic death — struck and killed in front of their house one day after she’d walked home from her work at the Town Hall. It was a blow that left him grieving and wondering what could possibly help fill the deep void in his life. Then one day he began to tell us about what we now refer to as “David’s gifts.” He had found a new, unexpected focus for life and it involved quite a list of people — and all of them decades younger than himself.

David, besides being a poet, is a very talented musician and often in demand for his performances. One evening after an out-of-town rehearsal, Adam, a high school student, needed a ride home and David obliged. This began a long-standing friendship where the boy learned much about music and the man learned much about the boy’s life and dreams. When Adam went off to college on a full scholarship to study engineering, David knew there was a scarcity of funds available for essentials like textbooks, so he quietly began to pick up the slack. Each year since then, as the tuition rises but the scholarship amount does not, David digs deeper and makes up the sizeable difference. He calls it his investment in the future.

Next Michael appeared on the scene as a fifth-grade piano student who became the page-turner for one of David’s piano performances. Again, he was another talented youngster who learned invaluable lessons about music from this seasoned mentor. Now Michael is a college freshman and David recently learned his young student friend had to cancel his music lessons. You can guess who stepped in to cover the cost of university-level lessons for next semester — and probably beyond.

Then there is Susie, a high school student whose flute teacher called one day to ask David to let her ride to community band events with him. Knowing David, he used all future rides to further her musical education, along with some sound advice on life itself. In a recent email, he told of one snowy ride home when he said to Susie, “Do you realize how odd it is for an old coot like me to be alone with a young thing like you in a snowstorm in the middle of the night? I should be chumming with folks my own age.” Then, without batting an eye, Susie replied, “Well you can’t, because they are all in nursing homes!” And they laughed. This just shows the give-and-take of a gift that doesn’t need to be put into a box and tied with a ribbon.

Not all of David’s kids are musicians or scholars. Larry was a high school dropout, but that didn’t keep David from seeing he had potential. He noticed him down at a church supper one night. “While other kids were standing around waiting to be told what to do to help,” said David, “Larry just sized up the situation and did it.” David admired his work ethic, so later when he needed help on his property, he knew just who to call. Larry aced the chores, and he was paid royally every time David hired him since.

Peter was another boy who didn’t rank high in his school work, but wanted to join a Youth Conservation group. David wrote him a glowing letter of recommendation and Peter is now on his way toward his goal of working in law enforcement.

This is just the tip of the iceberg — there are many others on David’s list and he is proud of them all. And in case you have concluded that David is a millionaire, you are wrong. He is a retired teacher who lives modestly, and though he has no children of his own, he enjoys helping young people reach their potential, whether with money or good sound advice.

I asked for David’s permission before writing this column and he said it would be alright as long as I focused on the young people and downplayed his part. That’s him — modest and unassuming — but without him there would be no story at all.

Now, for the 23rd time since this column began, I get to wish my readers a happy holiday and healthy new year. And to all the Davids in this world, thank you for all you do.

Joann Duncanson, former Peterborough resident now living in Greenland, is the author of “Who Gets the Yellow Bananas?,” co-author of “Breakfast in the Bathtub” and author of her latest book, “Eight Crayons - Poems and Stories by an Almost Sane Woman.” She can be reached via her website www.jsnowduncanson. com or email ourbooks@

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