Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.
Date: Tuesday, January 11, 2005 6:29 AM
Last week Susan and I went out to dinner in a local restaurant. As we walked to our table, we passed two young couples at a table. One of the men said to me, "Hello, Dr. Schmier." He looked vaguely familiar, but I didn't know his name. I returned his greeting, but didn't stop to ask his name. A few minutes later, as Susan and I were playfully looking over the sinful menu, this young man from the other table approached us.
"I don't want to interrupt you," he said as he pulled over a chair from a nearby empty table and introduced himself by name. He was a student six or seven years ago. I remembered him for reasons I need not go into. Then, he hit me. "I don't think you know, but you made a huge difference in my life. I wouldn't be here or who I am if it wasn't for you....I needed you.... You were a loud voice in my life about things that I later realized mattered....I've never forgotten you and how much you cared for me and every other student in that class, and how much there is for me to care about myself and others. That got me through a lot of rough times....I never told you that. I just wanted you to know now....Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you."
I slightly nodded my head in acknowledgement and quietly answered, "You didn't interrupt anything. You don't really know what you've just done and how much I truly appreciate what you just said. Thank you."
I told him that his words has special meaning and how much I need them as I faced surgery in two weeks. He left with a smile, "You'll be hearing from me and I'll be praying for you."
As he left, I turned to Susan and told her once again, "Honey, did I tell you today that I do need you." And, I leaned over the table to give her a quick but passionate peck on her lips.
I'm not telling you this story to trumpet that I made a difference in someone's life. My point is how person has touched me, reached me, and has made a difference in my life. His words, "I needed you" have draped themselves around me these last few days like wisps of a morning mist rising from the surface of a lake. This cancer, like any obstacle or adversity or challenge is like pumice. Whether it grinds me down or polishes me up is not always totally dependent on myself. Whether we admit it or not, there's no one who can truly go it alone. We all need a connectedness, that is, a feeling of something larger than ourselves as a source for comfort, support, belief, faith, love, and hope. We all need people in our lives who believe in us. We all need people in our lives who light up our world. We all need people in our lives from whom we can gather strength. We all experience powerful benefits when we are the givers or recipients of compassion, love, and kindness. Age, experience, education, position, renown have nothing to do with it. Being human does. To deny this truth, that "no man is an island," is to deny our humanity. We all need people to dignify our lives. We all need people who are magical in our lives. Children need them; teens need them; adults need them; fathers and mothers need them; husbands and wives need them; sons and daughters need them; students and teachers need them; people with no or little education need them; people with college education need them; bosses and administrators need them; blue collar workers need them; white collar workers need them; academics need them; intellectuals need them; everyone need them. Throughout our lives we need people who provide encouragement, support, and unconditional love. The simplest gestures often have the most far-reaching results. I think one of the most beautiful legacies we can leave, that this ex-student left for me in the restaurant, is to make others feel a little more special and appreciated.
For us educators, the lesson is obvious. I'm not saying ignore or deny short comings, but at the same time if we lose sight of the strengths and virtues that reside within each student, we are inviting pessimism and hopelessness into our world rather than optimism and faith, and we limit our capacity to believe and hope and act on those beliefs and hopes. Don't underestimate the importance and power of an open heart to enrich our own existence and the existence of others. I can attest without hesitation, when you open your heart to other people to listen and see and care about them, when you give, when you serve, when you're empathetic, it changes the way you and they look at and act towards yourself, themselves, others, and the world--and both you and they are happier for it.
So, I am being reminded over and over again by your outpourings and by this erstwhile student and now professional, as Dickens wrote in OUR MUTUAL FRIEND: "No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it for anyone else."
Make it a good day. --Louis-- Louis Schmier firstname.lastname@example.org Department of History www.therandomthoughts.com Valdosta State University www.halcyon.com/arborhts/louis.html Valdosta, GA 31698 /~\ /\ /\ 912-333-5947 /^\ / \ / /~\ \ /~\__/\ / \__/ \/ / /\ /~\/ \ /\/\-/ /^\_____\____________/__/_______/^\ -_~ / "If you want to climb mountains, \ /^\ _ _ / don't practice on mole hills" - \____