A poet and a social scientist teaches us a lesson

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 11, 2015

William Sherrill has had one of his poems published in a new book, “On the Wings of Pegasus,” released by Poetryfest Press. His poem is “The Perpetual Reward of Obedient Investing.”

Sherrill, who I’ve written about before, is happy that at 65, he is “a published author, a social scientist and a preacher.” His poem is about more than what we think of as investing. He’s talking about a higher purpose, as he often does.

He put himself through Salisbury Business College and Shaw University and has been studying theology while active in his church. He is often asked to read his poems at the church.

Since I first wrote about him in 1998, we have been friends. He often shows up when I least expect it and most need a smiling face. Sometimes he comes to visit shortly after I’ve thought about him. We laugh at the coincidence. He often brings poems he has written. Sometimes he calls me to read a poem to me. He has some of his poems embroidered on handkerchiefs, or sometimes has a line or two printed on pens that he hands out. His enthusiasm and genuine surprise that he has made it this far is infectious.

He earns a space on this page because he is a shining example of a person who was reduced to a statistic but overcame life’s hard knocks to live a life of meaning and joy.

He finds great joy in writing poetry. It expresses who he is and the thoughts that dart about in his mind. He loves to read, especially magazines like Time and Fortune. He keeps up with what’s going on in the world.

When he comes to town, he makes the rounds, taking care of his business, then visiting friends. He always goes to Rowan Public Library to see his friends there. He’s spent many hours there reading. He’s not afraid to ask questions. He’s hungry to learn and he has a good memory for dates from history.

What makes him a shining example is he grew up poor in a large family. He went to segregated schools, he served his country and was then diagnosed with an illness that is managed by medication, which he takes diligently. People took advantage of him when he was ill. A marriage failed, a thug beat him up and robbed him. People told him he was no good and a failure. He believed it for a while. Then he got the help he needed and he started to work on his potential. He did well in school, and his teachers and then professors worked with him to help him do well, then even better.

The point here is this: We must never give up on each other. We must encourage and celebrate who we are and what we can do. Ask William Sherrill. He’s still surprising himself.