An Interview With...
David L. Weatherford
What is your title? Where do you work?
I'm a licensed psychologist working at Centerstone, a large mental health agency serving middle Tennessee. I work at the Luton Center office in Nashville as a child psychologist and as the coordinator of Child and Family Outpatient Services.
When did you first learn that your poem "Slow Dance" was being circulated around the Internet as a chain letter?
I wrote Slow Dance over 20 years ago. A few years later, I sold one time rights to the Russ Berrie Company and they developed a plaque of the poem - however it did not include my name. It was the first poem I ever sold, so I didn't think much about getting credited. I had no idea what confusion would later ensue because of that.
The first time I knew the poem was getting attention was around 1994 when a professor at Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky handed out a poem to his class - a poem called Slow Dance. As it happened, my sister-in-law was in the class and knew that I was the unidentified author of the poem. It was some years later that my brother received an e-mail about a young dying girl and a poem she reportedly wrote called "Slow Dance". Of course, my brother recognized the poem (I had given him one of the plaques) and told me about it. He did a search on the Internet and found that the poem was posted on numerous sites and the author was listed as "unknown" or "anonymous".
At this time, I had not yet accessed the Internet myself and really did not know what this all meant. Eventually I did, of course, and it was not long before I saw the dying girl hoax for myself. To this day, I have no idea how it got started, nor why, nor by whom. Initially, I was just happy that so many folks were reading some of my work, and I kind of enjoyed the mystery of being the "anonymous" author. After a few years of my friends urging me to set the record straight, I began to let webmasters know that this was a copyrighted poem that I had written, and they began to post this. Fortunately, a number of those hoaxbuster sites picked up the story and I am now generally credited as the author, although the hoax continues to float around. It is in fact, one of the very first poems I ever wrote.
When did you start writing? What inspires your writings?
I first started creative writing back in 1982. My kidneys failed and I had to start dialysis treatments. That meant sitting for 4 hours every other day tethered to a machine with little to do but think and feel sorry for one's self. I decided to write. Now, 25 years later, I'm still dialyzing - and writing. Over the years, I have had to contend with numerous medical problems, along with a number of personal trials. My writing is something I have to do to put my adversities and losses in perspective so that they do not overwhelm me. The one thing about suffering that is beneficial, is that it can make you have a deep and great appreciation for those things that are positive in your life. This is why I also write a lot about love, family, and God, for they have sustained me through my journey. If you visit my website, I think you will see these themes underlie almost everything I write.
Has any of your work ever been published (beyond your website)?
I have had my writing published in several Chicken Soup for the Soul books, in about 15 greeting cards, numerous magazines, and all over the Internet. I receive requests every week to include my poems in newsletters, church bulletins, magazines, and other assorted formats. Folks have also asked to read my poems at funerals, weddings, school events, wedding anniversaries, and such. Over 40 people have written me to say they were inspired to develop my poem, Slow Dance, into a song. I have seen quotes from my poetry not only in books but also on calendars, mugs, and even a roadside billboard! Perhaps my favorite though, is the dozen or so children who have written to tell me they were doing some kind of class project on Slow Dance because it is their favorite poem.
Have you published any books of your work?
I spent several years trying to find a publisher for two small, gift-size books I've written and self-published. One is a book of aphorisms about love, and the other a book of quotes on overcoming suffering. I was rejected countless times. I did not get discouraged, really, but finally gave up just because it was too time-consuming and I preferred to spend my time actually writing.
What were your favorite activities as a child?
My favorite activity as a child was sports. I played ball all year round, in all weather - basketball, football, baseball, tennis, and volleyball. I also read a lot. My mother got me started in first grade by encouraging me to win a contest to see who could read the most books over a long period of time (I got 2nd place). I've been a big reader ever since, and no doubt that has helped with my writing.
What were your favorite subjects in school?
Favorite subjects in school? That's a tough question for me. I did well in everything, but never really loved any of them. I was a class clown. I loved to have fun and make people laugh. I always enjoyed school more for it's social aspects than for the schoolwork. But my mother expected A's and B's and that's all I ever made. It's probably fortunate that I was academically strong, to compensate for my shenanigans which made me a frequent visitor to the principal's office.
Do you encounter very many reluctant learners or children with learning disabilities as part of your job?
I do not work with learning disordered children in my practice. That is to say, while some of my clients may have learning problems, that is not an issue that we address directly in counseling. I help children and adolescents who are having emotional and/or behavioral problems. While, these problems (e.g., depression, anxiety) may interfere with their learning, therapy is focused on the underlying problems - when resolved, they should have improvements in many aspects of their life, including school performance. If a child presents in my office with learning disabilities (e.g., dyslexia), I will refer them to a psychoeducational professional.
Did you live in any other countries or experience other cultures or languages as a child?
I have never been outside the USA, in large part due to my medical problems. I took Spanish in college, but have not retained much of it due to not using it since then. I always wished that I had learned sign language in my earlier years, as it would be rewarding to be able to provide counseling to deaf children.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a child, I wanted to be a lawyer. I loved the Perry Mason show! I imagined myself as a determined defender protecting innocent people from unjust accusations. For some reason, it wasn't until I was a junior in college that someone told me that criminal defense lawyers are more often working hard to get guilty people off the hook! That was not for me, so I had to make a quick choice of what else to pursue. I was already taking several psychology courses, and my mother was a psychologist, so I decided to pursue child psychology.
What do you like most about your job?
I love the variety of my job. I do many different things each day, and never know for sure what may come up. I provide counseling to children from age 5 to 17 with a diversity of problems. I also provide supervision to other therapists, manage a child and family outpatient program, and work with a wide variety of other professionals in different capacities.
Are you able to leave work behind when you go home for the day?
I do not have a problem leaving work at the office when I go home. I am very practiced in the art of living fully in the moment, and try very hard not to dwell on anything that would rob me of the fullness of the present moment.
If you could start your life over, would you choose the same career path or would you want to try something different?
With the exception of being an NBA superstar, there is not another career path I would choose over mine. I'm proud of the work I do, and pleased to carry on the same type of work that my mother did before me.
Do you have any advice for the students reading this interview?
My advice is simply to appreciate the blessings in your life. There will always be circumstances and events we would rather did not happen in our lives, and we cannot control that. But we can take charge of our thoughts and attitudes, and live with happiness and contentment if we learn to embrace the blessings, accept the challenges, and use all of this to learn, grow, and become all that we can. Joy is not handed to anyone, but it is created within ourselves through how we choose to look at life and how best to live it.
If you could choose one of your poems as a must read, which one would it be?
I would recommend reading my poem "I Wouldn't Be the Rich Man". While I have at times in my life longed for things I have never had, not only wealth and fame, but even good health, I recognize that if I were to trade places with the rich man down the street or the famous man on TV, I would be giving up all that makes my life precious - my family and my friends. And that would be too much to give up.
Do you have a favorite quote (or a person) that inspires you and your writings?
I admire the great Helen Keller. She overcame incredible adversity to create a life of joy, wisdom, and inspiration. I love her quote:
"The world is full of suffering - and the overcoming of it".
I hope folks will visit my website and consider dropping me a line with any thoughts or feedback. Best wishes and joyful living to all!
We were sad to learn that David Weatherford passed away on January 17, 2010. His classmate Susan Livvix wrote: 'Our 40th class reunion will be this summer in Hopkinsville, KY. We graduated from Christian County High School, class of 1970. The first planning meeting was held this evening [2 Feb 2010] in Hopkinsville. I am hoping that we will be honoring David by featuring some of his beautiful writings that will certainly become his legacy. I particularly like "Slow Dance". We will miss his presence at our reunion.'
- 10 August 2007
19 February 2010
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