Over 40 years ago, a public high school teacher named Lenny Horowitz changed my life completely by helping me believe I could write. And, since it was a change that was slow to grow fruit, I was never able to tell him. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease the following year, and died shortly after I left Buffalo.
In 2006 I wrote an essay for the Random House website about his influence in my life. It’s still on my blog to be read.
In 2009 my novel Diary of a Witness, about a couple of bullied kids, was published. I dedicated it to Lenny.
A couple of months ago I found an ancient photo of Lenny cut from a Bennett High School yearbook. It’s somehow survived dozens of moves.
For almost four years I have been actively searching for Lenny’s son, Brian (or Bryan). He was younger than me, so would likely be in his late 40s. I want to give him a copy of that book, and show him my essay. I even engaged a (friend of mine who is a) good private investigator to help in the search. But after 40 years, a trail can grow awfully cold. We found two Bennett High School teachers who remember Lenny, but they were not able to help me find Brian.
I was just about to give up when it struck me that the Pay It Forward model of exponential multiplication could be a useful tool. Will you Pay It Forward for the author of Pay It Forward by moving this information on to more eyes? Social networking can be a tool of enormous impact. Most people have hundreds of Facebook friends and Twitter followers. Word can travel fast.
If I had lost my father as a child, I’d want to hear from someone with a good story about his life-changing kindness. I can only hope Brian will agree. I have to try.
I have a major update for this post! As a direct result of social networking to pass this info along, I have gotten hugely closer in my search. A friend and fellow author, who I've done a couple of favors for, paid it forward to me by connecting me with a woman from the Jewish Genealogical Society of L.A., who she had done a favor for. How's that for Pay It Forward in action?
The woman was able to get me Lenny's middle initial and date of death, which she advised me to use to get an old obituary from the Buffalo News. And it just arrived in my email. I now know Lenny's wife's, parents', sister's and brother's names, and I know his son's name is Brian rather than Bryan. With luck, this will be all she needs!
Cross your fingers for me, please!