Or vice versa, actually.
We have been talking about school memories this week and boy, mine are generally not happy ones. I won’t dwell on it or bore you and I am not looking for sympathy. I was a shy, over-achiever in a strict elementary school, and I was often ill. Later on, we had extensive family problems and my teen years were spent dealing with my dysfunctional family and other people’s problems…and washing my nieces’ diapers.
I will say that I do have one heck of a story but I’m not sure that I can tell it to you. Several years ago after I started writing again in earnest, I read an article in USA Weekend Magazine that asked for like stories and knew I had a perfect one for them. They had posted the address of the writer’s blog and asked for submissions to be made there. I posted it and they loved it, so much so that a USA editor emailed me several times about a follow-up article featuring me and the other person in the story, an old schoolmate. (It involved her late mother as well, a teacher of mine.) Unfortunately, the follow-up article was killed. I never remember when it is convenient to look up the writer and the blog to get my story back. It is a “Chicken Soup” quality story if there ever was one, and I’d love for you to read it. Hopefully, you will be able to sometime.
(If I sound like I have had a hard life I can only say it has been interesting. When I had a rare medical problem, I told the doctor that the words “average” and “normal” have never been applied to me. But I think, well, maybe that is conducive to writing. My life hasn’t really been exactly Dickensian, but I’ve had a number of ‘times and troubles”.What doesn’t kill you can still wear you down, yet I know I have become far more understanding. And a bit of ill health helped Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Louis Stevenson’s work, I’m sure.)
One of my favorite school stories is amusing, and possibly inspirational, although the beginning may not seem so; (bear with me).
When we were married my husband was teaching in a small, private, religious academy. We went through many trials for years and a few times the school was miraculously resurrected, but the last year it failed completely and would have closed mid-year but for the tenacity of some of the staff members. Bad managing, outright fraud and deadbeat parents ruined the place financially. Several teachers seized funds and some left as all were behind in being paid. My husband was one of the those who got totally shifted,(five months’ pay worth). However, he and a couple of others had side jobs and until the end of the school term he continued teaching because he was afraid that other schools might not accept all of his senior student’s credits, and he was determined that they should graduate. He had genuine affection for them and a few of them he had put extra time and effort into for years, ever since he had been the teacher for their fifth grade geography class. We lost a number of students, but a surprising number remained, their families faithful to what the school had meant to them for years,(and I suppose some with false hope that it could bounce back once more).
On the night of graduation, what remained of the polarized Board of Directors and Staff gathered with parents, family, friends and a few prestigious guests, including a retired bishop. The man was all that one should be able to expect, but we don’t always get. He knew the problems and he made an effort to be inspirational, warm, encouraging and a peacemaker. But at the end, as he stood and gazed at the graduating class seated in cap and gown in the front row, he looked to student strategically placed in the middle. He said, “They say no man is an island, but I am not sure that that isn’t true of Michael Frances Park!”*
Indeed, he praised “Michael” as a brave young man to stick out the year as the last remaining male member of his class.
I pray that the fellow has remained as self-confident and steadfast through the passing years into adulthood.
[* The name has been changed.]