There are two teachers I will remember forever.
Their faces are burned bright into my memory—a flash of light and hope in a sea of otherwise somewhat forgettable characters. These two are beacons to me—touch points I can turn to again and again.
One is my fifth grade teacher. In a tumultuous time in my life, school was a place of safety and security. I knew what to expect and I knew what was expected of me. I loved reading and this teacher always had a recommendation. At one point during the year we had to read this book called Fog Magic. She gave each student their own copy with a message from her. I’m sure for every kid she spent time coming up with the perfect thing to write on the inside cover of their book. When I read the words she wrote for me I felt seen; I glowed from the inside out. I gave her the first few precious words I ever wrote—spirals filled with fifth grade level fiction. She read every word and would leave notes, telling me the things she liked and what worked. I remember the care she took with those precious half-steps I made as I first put pen to page.
The other teacher was my English AP teacher junior year in high school. He would stand in front of the classroom and rip open books, delving deep into the words to create meaning out of chaos. I learned about theme and diction and how writer’s have a purpose they are striving to achieve. I learned about metaphor from the turtle in The Grapes of Wrath. For most books we read we would have this 50-75 question in-depth study guide. Hard questions, asking us to go deeper and deeper. The Friday before it was due, I with a few others would swarm his desk and ask questions and he would lead us on this journey. He would waggle his bushy, gray eyebrows at us when we were on the right track. That was the year I knew I would be an English major in college. He gave my love for reading books and for sucking the marrow out of words a direction.
I wonder as I think about these two, if that’s enough of a legacy.
I wonder if these two teachers are satisfied with their life’s work knowing that I am irrevocably altered because my life intersected with theirs. If I’m the only who remembers them…are they satisfied?
Because I don’t hope for more than a few to know my name or read my words. But I am so thankful for the sacrifices these two teachers made. And I want it to be enough because I would not be sitting here today outside my kid’s school writing these words if it weren’t for them. And while I want my words to matter and have purpose and give life…
I also want to be enough for the one. One connection. One person.
I think often in this world where everyone seems to have their five minutes of fame, it’s easy to get discouraged when I’m not hitting the numbers. When the slow work of putting words to paper overwhelms me and it’s easier to paint a bathroom and menu plan than create fantastical worlds and I start to buy into this lie that I’m not good enough, or that I’ll never make it. Or the sad reality that all these words will be forgotten and buried in fifty years.
But I’m starting to think that’s a lie. That the fame—or whatever—is misleading and fleeting. Because I want to matter to people—but more than that I want to matter to the one. I want to touch and speak and love the ones through my words and through my life who are nearby. And even though I will be forgotten in a hundred years, my life vapor and dust, I get to live today. I get to write the words that will set me free. I get to nourish and feed my family. I get to have coffee with a friend while she dreams her dream—and I get to be a ripple pushing goodness and love out into this world.
I am better because of two teachers.
My children may never know their names but their lives are better because of two teachers.
We live long after our dust has settled to the ground whether the world remembers us or not.