Though we find ourselves still steeped in the heat of summer, school days roll up in bright yellow buses and plaid backpacks with thoughts of autumn pinned to them. A longing seeps quietly into my being compelling me to add spiral notebooks, folders, and crayons to a shopping list. The very smell of crayons confirms the incredible power the sense of smell has for transporting us to another time. I am reminded of days spent coloring with my brother, home together recovering from the chicken pox or housebound by a snowstorm, and of course the first day of school. I loved going to school. My early years in school included Dick and Jane readers, phonics, workbooks, and cursive writing. The sing-song voices of girls echo in my mind repeating silly jump rope rhymes.
I can still remember the names of most of my teachers, some with more fondness than others. Teachers are often undervalued for the hard work they do in helping children prepare for the pressures of the grownup world. I admire the teachers I know and I am particularly proud to call some of them family. These are people with hearts for children growing up in a world more complex than I could have imagined. My world seemed quite small before 24 hour news broadcasts and high speed internet.
Caring teachers, in a world where we spend more time looking at screens than into the faces of the people around us, can be a positive influence as well as helping students feel less alone. There was one teacher too close to my own age for me to have been her student, never the less she impacted my life; she was my cousin. Two years ago in the spring, just before she turned 51, Barbie died. This vibrant, healthy woman with a heart big enough to pray for everyone who crossed her path was suddenly gone. It was unbelievable. A few days after hearing the news I stood looking into a casket at a body resembling Barbie void her joyous, loving personality. It seemed so unreal.
The following day I stood by family as we were led down the long isle of a sanctuary filled to capacity and overflowing, many had been students of hers: teenagers, young adults, and older. Over 1000 people attended the funeral of a high school teacher because she listened to them, cared about the details of their lives and gave up sleep to pray for them. Her children, her husband and a co-worker all testified to the great love and enthusiasm this one woman shared with those around her. Barbie was a gifted teacher, but her greatest gift was the love she had for the people she taught. I believe when all is said and done it does not matter if we were the best or most talented; it matters most what we do with the moments given to us and the people we share them with. Barbie lived in the moments and people knew they were loved.