No matter what your life is, or where and how you are living it, you can look back and find people whose impact helped form the person and life that is now ‘yours’.
Away back I remember Elizaberh Harding, English Grammar teacher at Granite Jr. High. We groaned when we found we were assigned to her class and I’m sure she did her best to teach us all we could understand or were ready for, but unbeknownst to her (or me) she gave me far more than the language rules.
See, there was one long ago afternoon and I can still see that drab room, smelling of chalk dust, with its four tiers of seats, and the exact place where I sat.
Miss Harding, for some reason, was reciting ‘Columbus’, Juaquin Miller’s poem, “Sail on, Sail on, Sail on and on”, and suddenly she was no longer a boring school teacher, but was ‘alive’ and in those moments, it surprised and comforted me to find there are deep hidden fires within adults as well as within such as I knew were within me.
And her Fires touched me that day, for I still see and recall, her passionate words spoken as she strode back and forth, “Even when all hope is gone . . . Sail on, Sail on, Sail on and on”. And, thanks Miss Harding, those words still live within me, and I wonder if she could even guess that she changed at least one life that day.
Then there was Gram. Of course there was Gram, and though in name, my mother in law, she became infinitely more. She, as we all do, had reasons ro be sad and bitter, but she was neither. and in her way, taught me how to keep a calm dignified attitude under all or any circumstance.
In the days of her final illness, Gram quietly spoke of how difficult it is to be aware of finding yourself slowly lose control of one’s mental, emotional and physical selves. Yes, in so many ways she taught me how to live, and with her death, she showed me how to die.
Of course, we all are changed by our own offspring, I have ruefully found mine were/are Teachers, but we, as parents, are so accustomed to being in control of all changes, that it’s a surprise (shock?) to find, that, as they have matured, they, have acquired wisdom that did not come from us. And, if we can be humble enough, in a most unexpected, turnabout way, we learn from them. TYG, TYG and TYG.
And then, Dr. Arya. a man, who was born in Bengal, India, chose to spend his life teaching, with his headquarters in the U.S.A., and I found his classes. He not only changed how I spent my days, but blessedly also gave form and meaning to my Inner Life And for years, his letters, coming from strange places around the globe, brought joy and light to me and I read them over and over before tucking it into my treasure box.
And then, and I hesitate to mention it, but I spent several hours a week for several years, in the Men’s Medium Security Section at the Point of the Mountain, es, the State Prison and those men brought many surprises to me.
When first asked ro teach there, I was hesitant, but decided to ‘give it try, that I might be able to do some good.’ And I shiver now, in disgust to recognize that kind of thinking was from Ethel’s great, big overgrown ego. For the truth is, that I found a lot of caring wisdom and understanding within those walls. And it was a rude, but badly needed, awakening of my pride, arrogance and judgmental mind, to find that, yes, I talked to them, but also gave them time to talk to me, and I could listen to their thoughts and actions. And it was good, for while in our give-and-take of ideas, I hoped they learned from me, for I found, to my surprise, I learned from them.
It’s there I truly found that there is no “you . . me . . these . . . those . . . or that kind of people’. But that we’re all just people. God’s people. People trying our best to cope with the different, often difficult and sometimes horrible experiences that come to us.
Like all of us, there have been many more who have changed me, but this small space can’t contain them all. And so, to Miss Harding, Gram, the author, Pearl Buck, my offspring, Dr. Arya , the men at the Point . . . and AW. . . . I deeply and humbly say thank you.