Ratty curls flopped on top of my hundred pound body. Dressed in oversized boy’s clothing, a coffee cup in my hand that may have been be filled with Jack Daniels, and smoke on my breath; I jumped on a friend’s handlebars and somehow made it to 8th grade.
I took my seat in the classroom, and there, I met one of those people. You know, the ones who seldom cross our paths? But when they do, their imprint is too deep to forget. He was a joyful, smart, and confident public school teacher who emanated a light that I didn’t have but wanted.
We began Mr. C’s class by reciting a few of the 18 Words to Know for Life found plastered around the top of the room. Love, he called out. In unison, we responded, Love, conquers all. Laughter, he continued. Laughter refreshes your insides. Truth – If you know the truth, the truth will set you free. We knew that #1 on the list was blank because these words alone are not THE answer. And #18 was blank because there are more words to know.
It’s as if someone arranged my schedule, when I became Mr. C’s aide for two semesters, despite school policy. My first assignment was to type the inspirational poster that hung on our classroom door. Then, the calendar of quotes, or Bible verses…?, from his desk. Looking back, I know what he was doing. I was a fourteen-year-old girl, alone and failing school. My mom had moved far away and left me hundreds of miles from any family; by most accounts homeless. If he thought I needed intervention, he was right.
Over time Mr. C., and his wife, became instruments of life and love. He fed me breakfast in the teacher’s lounge. She visited and brought hygiene essentials and wise words. This couple remarkably impacted my life at the exact time I needed it.
I remember one specific conversation. Mr. C asked what I believed to be his #1. “God,” I replied without hesitation. I knew God was his answer; although never mentioned, his conduct spoke. He voiced, “I wish I could take everything inside of my heart and mind and place it into yours.” I secretly longed for the same.
After that year, Mr. C. retired from teaching to become a youth pastor. As he drove me to youth group weekly, car conversations replaced our classroom chats. I started not recognizing the teenager that stared back at me in the passenger mirror.
It’s been a few decades since I met Mr. C. If you visited my house, you would find a folder overflowing with quotes and Bible verses that I typed long ago. You would see a woman with a changed life due to the love of a public school teacher. You would catch her writing a blog about the encounters that left an imprint too deep to forget. And, if you were to ask her, “What is your #1?” “God,” she would reply, without hesitation.
I believe it happened Mr. C. All because you chose to be One of Those People.
Mr. C’s Words to Know for Life
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