Exemplary Essay on "Blessings Revealed"


Read the original article "Blessings Revealed."

Photo by Paul Dunn for YES! Magazine

Shawn Clark, a senior in Mark Lancaster's Sustainable English class at Northland Preparatory Academy in Flagstaff, Arizona, read and responded to the YES! Magazine article, "Blessings Revealed" by Puanani Burgess.

Prompt: Puanani calls the boy in her story a "genius" even though he claims he doesn't do well in school. What would happen if society accepted people for what they can offer instead of what they can't do?

Read author Puanani Burgess' response to Shawn Clark's essay here.

Society's View Is a Lie

By Shawn Clark

The problem with society is that they judge people about their flaws and never about what they can offer. America is always looking for one single talent and for that talent to be perfect, but it just can’t be done. Perfection is a lie in this world. If someone doesn’t finish college, they’re doomed to work small jobs the rest of their life. The people of this country have the potential to offer so much, but can’t because they are discouraged by the public for their failures before sharing their successes, thus making those people lose self-confidence. If America looked at all of the gifts the people of this country can offer, then maybe society would accomplish so much more than it already has.

In school, I’m not all that smart when it comes to schoolwork, but I do have other talents outside of school. I’m not all that great at math, but I’m very adept with the computer and how it works. I couldn’t be worse at history, but I’m incredible at storytelling from past experience. I don’t need school for what I am already skilled at. I can understand how companies want someone with a college degree opposed to someone without one; it’s a sign of accomplishment. There are some people who have a degree, but aren’t as skilled as I could have been doing that job. If society would plainly look at skill, instead of who has what degree, it would create a community that knows what they are doing. Now, don’t get me wrong, some people who have a degree in what they major in know what they’re doing, but there are some who don’t even know where to start.

I can’t focus as well as I want in school, and I’m not the greatest at most sports, so in most people’s eyes I’m not useful to anyone. I just have different gifts outside of that area, like poetry. I use my poetry to entertain or help people with problems. I have a special technique where I use other people’s stories in my poetry and make it into a more powerful way to express it, with their permission, of course. This gift is powered by the influence of other people’s tragedies to make it incredibly strong. Another gift is playing guitar, I love playing my Fender when I’m in a sour mood because it relaxes me. The times I do write about what I believe, it’s for a friend in need. I always write poetry for friends that need encouragement. Sometimes I write how much I love my girlfriend and it always makes her smile. I also play metal guitar for my church as entertainment, to bring joy to others. The way we can get the crowd to cheer and clap is wonderful and it feels good to be able to bring happiness to others. My gifts can all help and bring peace to people, friend, or stranger.

So many people are overlooked due to their failures. It’s just not fair to them because everybody has something to offer the world. Society looks for perfection, but we can’t give it to them because it doesn’t exist within this world. When people shun others they become less confident in their thoughts and ideas. If society would look at the talents that we the people can offer, then it would be a more accepting country and more people wouldn’t be afraid to speak out. There would be more ideas for all sorts of topics, possibly the answers to problems that we’ve been trying to solve for years now. If society gave everyone a chance to show what they have to share with the world, it would truly be a better place.

Shawn Clark Shawn Clark is a senior at Northland Preparatory Academy in Flagstaff, Arizona. He writes poetry and plays guitar. Shawn describes himself  as a Christian man who writes about God and others.


Puanani Burgess' Response:


Aloha, Shawn Clark, Eric Moore, Katerina Myler, Megan Doss, Nicholas Ormeneze, Josh Ramirez, Stephen Hartt, Coley Todd, Andrea Dorsett, Lauran McMillan, Andrew Rudebusch, Janine Perez, Wil Lehman, and Mr. Mark Lancaster:

I have enjoyed each and every one of your essays; mahalo a nui loa (thanks without end, in the Hawaiian Language). These essays were thoughtful, and for some of you, may have been difficult to write. I appreciate your efforts to communicate, first with yourselves, then with others, your ideas about education, your gifts, the gifts of others, and the future of each person's life and our collective lives as a society. I appreciated the compassion with which you expressed both your pain and resiliency and hopefulness and continuing questions.

In order to dream, you have to starve doubt, feed Hope.  (a passage from a young adult book, whose author I have forgotten.  So with my thanks and apologies.)

Before I met that young man in my community, I was like many other adults, blind to the possibilities of success in a world that focuses on academic achievement, almost exclusively, as a major indicator of success. He stopped me in my tracks; just as your essays have stopped me, urged me to "listen to your voices and ideas" and incorporate them into my own. Mahalo a nui loa.

I appreciate the care with which your teacher guided and facilitated your journey to yourself.

It is rare that an author gets to receive so many thoughtful responses—your words are a gift to me that I would like to pass on, with your permissions.

Thank you also to my colleagues at YES! magazine for making a space for me to interact with you.

Gassho (Be One),
Puanani Burgess

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