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Reflections from the Road

by Rick Mansfield

      Some days some images just seem to rush into our minds.  Others hang around the edges of our consciousness; like those wise old bucks that haunt the tree edge until shadows are no more and dark has finally arrived.  Then they are present; just not easily defined.  Such was the likeness that arrived in mine just past four this morning.

I was seated in my first superintendent’s office; occupying a chair previously held by a giant.  Shannon had been first an important mentor, later a treasured friend.  Years later I would be honored to be the speaker at his funeral.  Alive and well at this time; retirement had taken him from the office in which I now sat.  Soon, his wisdom would be sorely missed.

My high-school principal sat across the desk from me; beside him, one of our students.  A young lady who like too many in our world had been left to live on her own.  She resided in an apartment the southside of town; was struggling too keep up grades and rent.

An orphan, she was not.  Just one of the many children parents had decided to abandon.  To cut loose.  Parents with struggles of their own.  Sometimes financial; sometimes not.  Often, parents with nice cars and front row pews in the local church.  The role of “mom” and “dad” no longer a part of their schedule.

This student was having problems with a teacher.  Problems exacerbated by unfulfilled homework assignments and tardiness attributed to lack of sleep.  The latter the result of an after-school job and a fledgling romance.  Her mindset the whole world had turned against her.  Not a mindset restricted to only those her age.

The principal had brought her to my office for recommendations, had already made several of his own.  During our discussions, we ran the gambit of appropriate “feel good” activities she might enjoy.

Our last had been to just take the rest of the day off and go home, rest and watch TV.

She frowned even more.  Her television had recently quit and there was no money to get it fixed.  In what was almost desperation, the principal recommended the following:

“You have a little dog.  Just go home and chase the dog around the house!” he proposed.

The young lady broke into tears.  Was inconsolable.  Finally, was able to sobbingly relay the story.  Her little pet had been run over just that morning.  Killed.  Didn’t feel she could use that as an excuse for her lateness.  Admitted it was almost that proverbial straw that has crippled so many camels.

Somehow, in a short matter of time the principal had her laughing.  Had a classmate excused long enough to drive her home.  Seems her car had suffered a similar fate as the television.  I would learn later that this principal found her another television; used, but free.  Saw that she had groceries to tide her over to her next payday.  All anonymously.

This principal did such things for many students.  Always anonymous.  A clerk at the local grocer revealed his secret to me years later.  I never thanked him for such acts of humanity.  In person, or with a card. Won’t now, as he has passed.

As we celebrate this holiday of Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the parents that accept fully their obligations.  For people such as this that fill the gaps.  For all that seek opportunities to serve.  I am grateful to many.  I hope I do a better job of letting others know of this gratitude.  Thanks for joining us!

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