Recently, in The Charlotte Ledger, I read an obituary for an obviously much-loved music teacher. I did not know the gentleman. It drew my attention because it was not the usual obituary. It was mostly remembrances from his former students; many of them now with High School students of their own.
The former students wrote about lessons that influenced who they are today. None has become a famous musician; most have not pursued music. Along with music, and understanding lyrics, this teacher taught that important bit extra. One student summed it up: “He nurtured creativity, confidence, and compassion in thousands of young people. He guaranteed he would live forever in this world.” What a legacy.
These students make us ask – who impacted our lives? What did we learn when we didn’t realize we were learning? No man or woman is self-made. The question is - who helped make us who and what we are?
I began recalling the individuals who, I now know, influenced me – in big ways and small --reaching back as far as memory would go. The list is long, very long. It includes a mail carrier slogging through the snow. It includes family, friends, teachers, bosses, artists, construction workers, air raid wardens, bus drivers, even a musician on a plane. They shared, either by example or with words, lessons that would, unknowingly, become part of my life.
The musician on the plane: Listen to your inner Geiger counter, it will rarely lead you in the wrong direction. The mail carrier: I made a commitment. The artist: Please do not color inside the lines. The air raid warden: I will lead you to a safe shelter. The bus driver: I trust you – you can pay tomorrow. Bosses: We appreciate you. Family: Help your brother and sister. Friends: I’m listening. Teachers: Good, but you can do better. Construction worker: The foundation is important; we build from that.
Sometimes it’s not a person’s voice, it’s a choice that became a defining moment. Growing up my grandson played a lot of baseball. He was excellent. The pros were mentioned. He did not become a professional baseball player. Were his baseball days wasted? Not at all. What he learned, while he did not know he was learning, was patience, and a remarkable ability to get along with all manner of people. Learning, no matter the situation, topic, or teacher, is never wasted.
We have here. We have now. We have memories. It’s interesting to recall the voices and examples we learned from and heed the new voices insisting their way into our lives. Look what happened because of one special teacher.
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