Please Pay This Forward

Mar 16, 2011 by

Please Pay This Forward

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. [Read  Catherine’s original blog about Lenny here]

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.

Thank you!



  1. Donna Morask

    words to live by
    a philosophy to follow
    pay it forward and you will see
    a bright and beautiful tomorrow
    Beautiful story, comments and pure intentions all around…
    “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me….”

  2. Kristen Lono

    I am very grateful for this word gift, and I happened to find it visiting the email Virtual Wall link to the squadron in which my dad served. Some people think idly surfing the web a waste of time, but if you have ever felt isolated, abandoned, strange, at odds: tis true you can find a family anywhere.

  3. Kristen, as I read the sensitive portrait of this captured moment, which has been held ever close to your longing mind and gentle heart, I found my tears falling on my hands laying upon the desk. Having been wrapped so quickly in the tale’s tender telling I’d not even realized my emotions overflowing. Thank you for moving me with your cherished treasure.

  4. Kristen Lono

    My subsequent contact with this kind & thoughtful man has given me a living portrait of the man my dad’s colleagues knew.

  5. Kristen Lono

    So here’s that poem that meant the world to me (and I am not making comment on the literary value of the work. It stands alone as a great gift to me). The author is the enlisted man who delivered the mail to my dad’s squadron, written shortly after my dad did not return from a mission, discovered by me many years later on the squadron website:

    By: Dean Glorso
    Like Santa Claus, I drop the sack
    Letters from the “World”, I sort and stack
    Some familiar some new, as I flip through the mass
    Some special for Marines, missing or killed in the act
    Vietnam, my job, the mail takes care
    Then I see the letter, scent fills the air
    The handwriting so perfect, the black ink so clear
    The blue-green envelope smells sweet and dear
    She doesn’t yet know, the word just around
    The Major’s mission must have met ground
    He’s the XO, I look up to, all give him respect
    I stare long and hard at the letter, and cock my neck
    And reflect on the times, I handed him the stack
    Blue-green on top, in his chair he’d lean back
    His feet found their way to the crate called his desk
    With a grin he’d thank me, I’d deliver the rest
    Leaving him to read the letter scented so sweet
    Now I wonder how many years she will weep
    Not knowing the fate of her man so dear
    Missing in Action must be every love’s fear
    The cross on the wall, not yet removed
    The Major’s Mail Call, death not proved

  6. It definitely was not a distraction. More like a multiplication of the message regarding the importance of relationships. Thank you, Kristen.

  7. Please Kristen, do not think of your story as a distraction. On the contrary, I think it epitomizes the importance of what Catherine’s intention is, to offer to Lenny’s son the gift of a remembrance of his father that he can only have access to through the eyes of another. This is the exact gift that kind enlisted man ending up giving to you. So, once again, my wonderful friend, thank you for sharing your tender truth. <3

  8. I apologize if my personal account distracted from Catherine’s story. I meant to empathize…

  9. Dearest Kristen, thank you for offering your very personal reflection. My sweet friend, as you know, I completely relate to having the kind of drive within that you seem to discuss here, creating a longing to have a picture of what happened in those “last few moments”…. with love, b

  10. I completely understand Catherine’s wish. My dad was killed in Laos, in a plane crash, during the Vietnam war. For years, he was listed as missing. I have spent hours online trying to track down those men who worked with him, knew him, and spoke with him, in his last hours, to paint a picture for myself, of my dad’s last day. I received a moving account from an enlisted man whose job was to ferry pilots out to their planes via jeep. His memories of my dad were vivid and comforting. Closure can be a stupidly, overused word, but knowing more about what has happened to those we love? We pass it on….

  11. Mary Bogue via Facebook

    Pay It Forward – one of my FAVE all time movies. My answering machine even asks people to pay it forward. Love it!