"What first inspired you to act?" -Stephanie
I know everything in life, at least all the big choices, even the small ones stem from single events. Something happens, we respond, and our response sets a pattern for the rest of our lives. For me, there are a few moments that stand out. The first big one was in fifth grade with possibly the best teacher ever, Mrs. Lau...or was it Law? Something like that. She believed in solid hands on, participatory learning. The visceral things are the ones that stick best.
We were doing a unit on the Greeks, this day was about the first marathon, and by that it's really the story of why a marathon is a race named after the city-state of Marathon. None of us knew the story, and I remember it was a pretty hot afternoon. I don't know if I stood out or not back then, that was shortly after I started going by Vinnie instead of the full Vincent, but something had her choose me to act out the story as she read it. Heck, I may have volunteered, I don't really remember. There was probably a girl involved I wanted to impress, or I was just bored. That's not the point. As she read, I acted it out in mime, because that's what came to me. If you don't know the story, here it is as I remember it from way too long ago:
Everything is fine in the seaside City-state of Marathon, people are doing nice, Greeky things in the Greek sun. Harvesting olives and whatnot. Then a city lookout sees a fleet of ships on the horizon approaching the city. Warships. I forget where they are from, but the city is isolated, and has not enough people to face the phalanx headed their way. They took their only hope of defending the city and placed it in a sole messenger and sent him over the endless mountainside to the nearest city, some 40 miles or so away. He ran and ran and ran, up and over crags, down valleys and up more peaks, along the roughly hewn road until he could see smoke from the fires of their nearest allies. He told them of the impending onslaught. The warriors prepared to head to sea and flank the enemy at midnight. Knowing that the rest of his people must be told, the messenger resolutely turned and began to run back to Marathon to tell his people of their hope. He ran and ran and ran, back down into the valleys and up over the peaks he had past hours before. The sun was low but still shining heavily on his straining body as he worked with every ounce of strength he had left to return with the message before it was too late. Finally after hours of running, his birth-city peaked over the mountain crest just ahead of him. The enemy was on the beach, assembling to attack the city. The messenger sprinted to the gates to give the word, and upon telling them of their hope, he collapsed and died from exhaustion, knowing he had saved the city.
So yeah, that lesson stuck...even if the facts are a bit off. I'll leave what I did to your imagination, but I remember having the entire class perched on their desks, just waiting for every new bit of story, caring about the fate of this lowly messenger and his heroic feats from centuries ago made alive through me. That's the first time I remember realizing how much of an impact a good story well acted has on people. Also, how great it felt to have the whole class tell me how great it was. Recognition...it's a great drug.