Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Empty Nester/Retirement (from work) (09/10/09)
TITLE: Making a Difference
By Shiloh Andrus
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Carefully, she placed her load of books on the old desk and sat down in her tattered, leather chair. Looking now at all of the empty desks sitting before her, she wondered for a moment, “Did I really make a difference?” Lowering her head into her hands, she sighed.
It took some time, but finally she reached for a cardboard box and began to place files, mementos and knickknacks inside. After some time of opening cabinets, removing her personal paraphernalia, and dusting off old plaques, she noticed a yellow envelope laying quite forgotten on one of the uppermost shelves of the bookcase. Her name was written in beautiful script across the top. She wondered for a moment how the letter had been forgotten. However, musings aside, she sat once again and opened the letter. What she saw made her smile. Inside was a class portrait from the year of 1975. Circled in red ink was the face of a little boy with blond curls and an infectious smile. “Timothy Henderson,” was written neatly in the corner of the note. Yes, she remembered Timothy; always late for class, the first to pick a fight, and the last one to admit he had done wrong. However, she also remembered there was so much more to his story than just the occasional split lip and forgotten homework. Timothy’s father had died in Vietnam leaving behind a little boy who knew no other way to deal with his emotions than to lash out at those around him. Yes, she remembered Timothy and for all of his difficulties, he had been so special to her. Breathing deeply, she opened the note and began to read.
Dear Mrs. Cornwell,
I read in the paper that you are retiring and I thought I’d jot you a quick note. You may not remember me, so I’ve included this picture hoping it will put a face to a name. I want to thank you Mrs. Cornwell, for not only being a great teacher, but also for believing in me. I went through so much after my dad died in the war and my mom was too filled with her own grief to notice the anger of a little boy. But you noticed and it meant so much … it means even more now.
It got me thinking and I discovered something I think is pretty special. You see, there are many architects who have built great bridges, and many musicians who have composed powerful symphonies, but I believe it is teachers like you who have truly inspired greatness. We, your students, are your bridges - we are your symphony. Our lives represent all that you have accomplished and if we fail or succeed in life, we can at least say we tried. That, I think, was your greatest lesson!
Thank you Mrs. Cornwell for what you have put into my life. All that you have done did not go unnoticed - It has meant the world to me!
Wiping her eyes with the back of her hand, Mrs. Cornwell gazed again at the empty chairs sitting before her old, dilapidated desk. Now, in the light of Timothy’s note, she no longer saw them for their emptiness, instead a lifetime of memories flooded her heart filled with the faces of so many children whose successes, she now realized, were her own and in that moment, she felt - inspired.
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