Sharpen your pencil

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I love pencils. Even the word paints a picture.

Originally, the word pencil described a brush. Five hundred years ago, to “pencil” something meant to pain it with a fine brush. And that’s what you can do with a pencil… paint a picture in words.

The thousand-year-old version of the pencil that’s in your pocket today was a simple hunk of lead that could smear a gray line of the toxic metal on paper to write something like, “Edelbert owes Ogden ye grayns of corn in fore barells in payment for ye oxens calffe.” That paints a picture, doesn’t it?

That’s why we still call them “lead pencils,” even though it’s been nearly 500 years since graphite replaced the lead. It writes darker and won’t poison you when you use it.

I also like pencils because they have erasers. It’s nice to know some things can be “unwritten.”

In 2008 Adam Braun founded a non-profit company called Pencils of Promise that has now built more than 380 schools for children in the developing world. He authored a book titled The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change.

Braun wrote, “What can a pencil do for all of us? Amazing things. It can write transcendent poetry, uplifting music, or life-changing equations; it can sketch the future, give life to untold beauty, and communicate the full-force of our love and aspirations.”

If the pen is mightier than the sword, the pencil is at least a good Swiss Army Knife. Not a bad trick for something that can paint word pictures, too.

So this week the Jamestown Gazette answers a question we’re sure you haven’t asked lately, but we hope you will soon… “Why do firefighters love pencils?”

Stumped? Our page 1 story this week, by contributing writer Andrew Kolstee, answers that question and invites you to join the Axemen. They are a powerful group of local smoke-eaters and firefighters who deliver thousands of brand new pencils every year, along with a whole school bus full of additional, brand new school supplies, to area schools for students who have pictures to paint in words, problems to solve with numbers and a whole world to sketch and draw.

Filling the Axemen’s big, yellow school bus with crates and boxes of supplies donated by thousands of local citizens all across the region is a great way for you to help build the world that today’s youth will lead tomorrow.

The Axemen’s bright yellow crates are stationed in banks and stores and shops throughout the county. If you have not seen them yet, or have not yet contributed, make a date to do it… pencil it in your date book or someplace near the top of this week’s “To Do” list.

Your pencil in the hand of a student you may never meet might be the one that changes the world. Famed architect and inventor, Buckminster Fuller, once said, “It’s easier to make changes with a pencil than a wrecking bar.”

Help a student, change the world, and enjoy the read.

Walt Pickut

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.