I wake up from a dream about a job I left over 20 years ago. I was back in the office meeting old friends again and reminiscing about our times together. I had to give a speech to the office. I’m now sure of the topic. As I wake up I’m thinking about the past and how it shapes who we are today. I have been hearing from multiple sources there are no accidents. What happens happens for a reason and we have actually planned it. My thoughts turn to Mrs. Richards, my fifth and sixth grade teacher.
Up until fifth grade I was known as a bit of a problem child. I had been in trouble with teachers since at least first grade. I remember carrying home the dreaded notes saying I was uncooperative or “talked back”. I didn’t want to take the teachers’ suggestions preferring to do my own thing. For some reason in fifth grade I was in a split classroom with both fifth graders and sixth graders. I think it was an experiment. It was called an “open classroom”. We had very little time when the whole class was listening to the teacher drone on. We worked in small groups or independently. We could leave the classroom whenever we liked, we just had to grab the hall pass. At the beginning of each week we contracted for our assignments for the week. Scheduling them was up to us. As long as we completed them, we were free to procrastinate or we could cram them all into Monday and Tuesday and spend the rest of the week doing exploratory stuff. That’s what I chose to do. I loved it. Because it was a split class, I had Mrs. Richards two years in a row. Mrs. Richards was the first teacher I can recall that really got me. She loved me for who I was. Because of my dry sense of humor, she called me Groucho. She sent glowing reports home to my parents. She boosted my self esteem so much that over 40 years later I still think of her. I can still remember her voice, her face and her mannerisms. Thinking of that brings me comfort when I get afraid I’m going to forget Shayna. Surely I will remember her for as long as I do Mrs. Richards and God forbid I live another 40 years.
I’m sure she had no idea while she was on this earthly plane how much of an impact that teacher had in two years on that scrawny little kid in her class or that over 40 years later I would credit her with being a big part of who I am today. There are moments, people, events in our lives without which not only would our lives be different, we would be different people. The older I get, the more I see the purpose in what can seem to be randomness.
When I get discouraged about the way my life is going, especially when something I don’t like happens, I find it helpful to reflect on events in the past that either seemed devastating or insignificant. None of them were insignificant. Being in the right place at the right moment made all the difference in the world several times.m I think of my first job that I got by meeting a VP of Columbia Gas at a dinner. I had a migraine that night and almost didn’t go. That job sucked. I hated where I lived. I tried to get out of it for four years, but that job led to me being in Lexington, KY at the moment and day when I met my wife at the gym. Had I not gone to that dinner, no Ty, no Kayla and no Shayna. Going to that dinner that night seemed inconsequential at the time. Even the things I thought were awful worked out to put me in the right place at the right time and taught me invaluable lessons.
Maybe some day I will see Mrs. Richards again and be able to thank her for the role she played in my life.