Broward News

Palm Beach Former Teacher Pens Children's Book about Finding Life's Purpose

This is the tale of Benny, a fluffy little dog who has a lot to overcome. "He barked and he barked and he barked too much!" to the chagrin of his owner, Mrs. Crow. He was proud to protect his home, but as a small wide-eyed Pomeranian, he had to accept that he would never be a big brooding guard dog, but a lovable companion dog. Benny Find His Purpose, a book for people 8-9 years old and much older, is an adorable tale that teaches lessons that often get muddled by work, constant interaction, and everyday busyness.

Don't call it cheesy; it really is a nice lesson, especially around the holidays. The book also can help adults who have fallen off track with divorce, personal finances, whatever ails people. It's very cute, it's local, and it doesn't look like a self-help book although it really can be!

Benny and the other dogs he meets along the way were all pets of the author. Terrence O'Neill, who splits his time between Palm Beach and California, taught elementary school and junior high and says he has seen a problem with parents wanting to be best friends with their children instead of disciplinarians. This is an oft-repeated conversation that brings back memories of the 'cool' mom from Mean Girls. In recent years, parenting debates include whether or not to Facebook friend your child and whether it's safer to allow teens to drink in the house rather than elsewhere; not surprisingly, other lessons get lost in translation.

"I wanted to try to integrate this into a story," O'Neill said, having seen children struggle to find their purpose with little guidance. "We may have several different careers, but along the way we kind of actualize into out complete purpose." O'Neill was born in Chicago, IL, moved at a young age to Venice, CA, where he was an avid surfer. Then he had a brief stint as a model and played Superman in a Japanese TV movie. Ultimately, playing Superman was not his purpose, and he became a public school teacher.

"I'm going to continue trying to discover what I'm supposed to do," said O'Neill, who is working on his second book, a novel that is not geared toward youth. "Your life is constantly changing, but you're the only one who can really make it happen." 

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Leslie Minora