Teachers often fail to get just due for their important efforts in our behalf.
I had one such teacher in remedial school that I have always said changed my life.
While attending high school, I was enrolled in the normal schedule of classes: math, English, history, civics, business courses, PE, and wood shop. These were all pretty standard classes and nothing extraordinary, but one particular teacher was surprisingly influential. Many thought him strange, yet he connected with me as much as a high school teacher can. His name was Mr. Merritt. He was interesting, funny, and entertaining. He taught 9th grade English, and he would often read to us. His instruction was incredibly effective. Mr. Merritt told me answers to my questions immediately, rather than requiring me to struggle trying to figure out adverbs, modifier placement, and dangling participles, for example. I was interested in the right answer, and he didn’t require me to struggle through trying to discover or figure it out on my own. When I had sincere questions, he provided answers quickly, and it helped me connect the dots. This worked impeccably well for me, and English became my strength rather than something I really couldn’t and didn’t want to deal with. In fact, I started getting great scores on my assignments and began a trend of straight A’s all through my high school English courses.
He would walk around the room while reading to us and occasionally raise his foot and rest it on a desk and keep reading as though nothing had happened. He remained relaxed and continued his story without missing a beat. I think we thought he was trying to be funny. Some jokingly said he was crazy. And now, after many years, I think I know why he did this: it kept our interest. We were 15-year-old kids. Our attention span was all of 30 seconds, and so he recaptured our interest in these small ways without our even knowing it was happening. But unfortunately, everybody didn’t get along with Mr. Merritt. He was intelligent and articulate, but he was also non-confrontational, and for that reason certain students took advantage of him. Let me use an example to illustrate.
One normal day, we were in class when there was a knock at the door during his lecture. He walked from the chalkboard where he had been writing to answer the door. When I looked up, I saw the door open, and he was immediately drenched with a bucket of water. As you might imagine, we were shocked and awaited a livid response of some sort. He said nothing, pulled a handkerchief from his coat pocket, removed and dried his glasses, walked back to the chalkboard, and dripping wet continued teaching. That was it. The students reported the event among themselves and to others, I imagine. But I never heard mention of the incident again from Mr. Merritt. As far as he was concerned, it never happened. I suppose some would attribute this reaction to fear or insecurity, but to me it demonstrated composure, control, and superiority. He didn’t let a cowardly act like that impact what he was doing or interrupt his plans and ruin his day. He proceeded and did just what he had intended.
I thought he was outstanding.
Now, years later in my career and with hindsight, I can see Mr. Merritt’s influence for good in my life. His teaching helped me through college and the business world, and it continues to influence me for good today. I hope that someday I will get the opportunity to shake his hand and tell him thank you.
All of us have others to thank for the good breaks in life. We are composed of the experiences we have with the people that we meet—folks, friends, teachers, and others in our everyday lives.
Take an opportunity to tell these folks thank you. Do it today. You may never get the chance again, and you don’t want to live your life regretting the fact that you didn’t do it when you had the chance.
Remembering to say thank you will lift you and them. And who knows—it may just change your life.
It did mine.
The best part of that anecdote I just shared is that I am still benefiting from it. Yes, I still have a lot to learn, but because of this experience, my perspective has changed with regard to appreciation and who really benefits.
I once wrote an article about the ten lepers healed by Christ because they followed His instruction to go show themselves to the priest. Incredibly, in my mind at least, only one of the ten returned to say thank you. I, like you, vowed that I would never be numbered among those that failed to express appreciation, yet I fear I fail to always acknowledge God in the “work” He does in my life, and I am realizing that even though my intentions are good, my execution of these objectives is still found wanting.
- Family support and love
- Time period and dispensation of fulness of times
- Restoration of the gospel and temple ordinances
- Scriptures and clear and helpful instruction from the Lord
- Good health that we do enjoy
- Occupation and work
Even when these things are not prevalent in our lives, we are still blessed in many ways and have the assurance that as we follow Christ, our efforts will not be wasted nor will we be forsaken.
This knowledge can change your life and mine. And for that we must be grateful every day.
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.