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People with a lot of possibilities in them

In 1964, while teaching in Malawi, Paul Theroux wrote an essay on his experiences for The Home Forum page of this paper. When he got paid for it, he wrote to Erwin D. Canham, then editor: ''Our night-school class is usually held in the darkness; we practice oral English when it becomes too dark to see the blackboard. Now, with this money, we should be able to buy two or three kerosene pressure lamps. I want you to know that this money is a great blessing for us - it is eerie to teach in the dark, the voices hanging in the air.'' Mr. Canham quoted this letter in his column ''Let's Think,'' and Monitor readers responded by sending money for Mr. Theroux's school in Malawi.

Theroux then wrote to Mr. Canham that he had received (STR)280, and when he showed the check to the headmaster, he was so excited he said ''Let's buy a car!'' but then calmed down and began to think seriously about scholarships, electricity, and other things. They decided to share the money with the nine other secondary schools in Malawi.

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Theroux would like to run a school in a third-world country sometime. He doesn't know when he'll manage that, but says that ''the most interesting people , often, are those who have a lot of possibilities in them to follow different careers, and some of them do it all at the same time. One of the best examples of that is Erwin Canham, I think. Here's a man who for many people is an editor but he was also a journalist, he was also a very fine stylist . . . he was interested in politics, he was a public figure, he was an administrator, he was interested in the third world and underdeveloped countries . . . so you look at him and I think there was a lot of greatness in him. That was the best example of someone who is sometimes described as one thing but actually has all these other abilities.''