The Wake-up Call

I entered the University of Georgia in 1962.
Today, if you were to ask me to write down
the names of my dorm mates then, I’d say “Who?”
-- all except for one, a boy named Elmer Brown.

Elmer lived on the same floor of my dorm.
I didn’t notice him until five months had gone by.
Elmer kept to himself, studying all the time his norm.
Finally, my curiosity led me to ask him why.

Why not socialize, maybe join in a game of hearts?
“No, not I” was Elmer’s reply. “I’ve got to succeed!”
Elmer came from a small town. Seems back in those parts
he had earned a reputation - quite a bad one indeed.

In high school he had loafed, lucky to even make C’s.
As a senior, the guidance counselor had actually laughed
in his face when Elmer said he planned to earn college degrees,
that it’s people like Elmer who keep filling stations staffed.

Elmer got his feelings hurt…then he became downright mad.
Well, at ‘Georgia’ for four years Elmer studied late every night,
making A’s on all exams, Dean’s List every quarter until he had
won honor upon honor, just to prove that counselor wasn’t right.

Every quarter he mailed that counselor a copy of his grades.
Graduating ‘summa cum laude’, he went on to Law School.
Afterwards, back in his hometown, a successful life he made -
wealthy lawyer, town leader, widely admired as nobody’s fool.

Years later, I asked Elmer if he had ever talked again
to that counselor. After law school he’d sought him out…
to shake his hand, tell him thanks, since his ridicule had been
Elmer’s wake-up call, motivating him, without a doubt.

Harry Edward Gilleland      04.26.02