1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
In 1946, Frank Capra made a low-budget movie called “It’s A Wonderful Life”. It is one of my favorite movies of all time and my very favorite Christmas movie...along with Miracle on 34th Street. This movie told the story of a man who spent his life in a small town, never really realizing his dream. His dream was to travel the world and get away from the small town. His dreams were always put on hold due to other problems; problems with his family (they were poor) problems with his job at the family’s small business. He was a kind and gentle man and was always looking out for the other guy, willing to help. As his life wore on and his problems mounted he became despondent and finally decided to take his life on Christmas Eve. Now it seems that God was watching over him and sent a guardian angel to protect him. After an encounter with the angel, he complained about his failures in life and wished he had never been born. Well, it seems that the angel thought that this would be a good way to save him, so he granted his wish and the world was as if he was never born. As he and the angel wandered back into town, he noticed things were different. The town was not the nice place he remembered. His children didn’t exist and his wife and mother didn’t know him. The people he had helped out in life with loans were despondent and down on their luck because he hadn’t been there to help them. His little brother, whom he had saved from drowning when he was very young and who went on to become a navy pilot who saved a troop transport ship full of men during WW2 and won the Congressional Medal of Honor, was not alive because he had not been there to save him from drowning. And, those men on the troop ship also died because the brother never lived long enough to save them. Nobody in town knew him. Nobody cared. It was then that he realized that he had touched many people during his lifetime, a lifetime he considered a failure. Its funny, isn’t it when you think about what the world would be like if you weren’t born. We just don’t think about all the people we touch in life. We are too preoccupied within the confines of
our own little world.
Well, this week I was reunited with an old student. One I taught my very first year of teaching 23 years ago and discovered...if you do the math, that I have touched a lot of people in my life. I have been a teacher of high school students for 23 years. Do you realize how frustrating that can be? But do you also realize how rewarding that is? So much is said today about heroes and all around us the world is clamoring for heroes; firemen, policemen, soldiers, which are all very heroic occupations. But I think that teaching our children is a very heroic endeavor, an endeavor that many times goes unnoticed. There is no finer calling in life than to teach a child. We don't make much money....but the rewards come in smiles, hugs, and the successes of our students. All successful people can usually point to a teacher who has influenced their lives and I’m sure that each and every one of you can think of a teacher who helped you in life. I have taught over 100 students a year....x 23. Do the Math...that is 2300 students I have touched in my tenure as a teacher. Some I may have touched subtly, others, like the one I ran into this week, I touched profoundly, but you know up until I saw this former student I never have sat down and thought about just how many lives I have influenced? I have always made my students work for the grade they got in my class. I never wanted to be known as a crip class. I never wanted to be the class that students signed up for to get an easy "A". I wanted students to leave my class knowing something. My former student is an OBGYN in upstate New York. A Doctor! How cool is that. He has been published in medical journals. He knows how to write well because I was tough on him. What a waste it would have been if Josh had never become a doctor because he took what I gave him and passed it on to young interns doing their residencies...and the circle is unbroken. We all touch people's lives.
Pete Seeger took the words to the Ecclesiates verse above and made it into a song that was very popular during the Vietnam era. The Byrds were very successful with the song in October of 1965. It was a time of great turmoil...yet the song was very reassuring. We are all born....when we are supposed to be born....live when we are supposed to and die when it is our time. Everything that happens in our lives has a purpose. My purpose it seems is to teach...and therefore touching lives forever. What is your purpose? Do you know? Can you see how you touch people's lives daily? If you don't....then you need to look harder...because it is right there under your nose. For every good thing that happens to us in life....there is a bad thing, true....but the opposite is also true....for every bad thing...there is a good one. You just have to be willing to search for it.