All the Good Things
Author: Sister Helen P. Mrosia
He was in the first third grade class I taught at Saint Mary's School in Morris, Minn. All 34 of my students were dear to me, but Mark Eklund was one in a million. Very neat in appearance, but had that happy-to-be-alive attitude that made even his occasional mischieviousness delightful.
Mark talked incessantly. I had to remind him again and again that talking without permission was not acceptable. What impressed me so much, though, was his sincere response every time I had to correct him for misbehaving - "Thank you for correcting me, Sister!" I didn't know what to make of it at first, but before long I became accustomed to hearing it many times a day.
One morning my patience was growing thin when Mark talked once too often, and then I made a novice-teacher's mistake. I looked at him and said, "If you say one more word, I am going to tape your mouth shut!"
It wasn't ten seconds later when Chuck blurted out, "Mark is talking again." I hadn't asked any of the students to help me watch Mark, but since I had stated the punishment in front of the class, I had to act on it.
I remember the scene as if it had occurred this morning. I walked to my desk, very deliberately opened my drawer and took out a roll of masking tape. Without saying a word, I proceeded to Mark's desk, tore off two pieces of tape and made a big X with them over his mouth. I then returned to the front of the room. As I glanced at Mark to see how he was doing he winked at me. That did it! I started laughing. The class cheered as I walked back to Mark's desk, removed the tape and shrugged my shoulders. His first words were, "Thank you for correcting me, Sister."
At the end of the year I was asked to teach junior-high math. The years flew by, and before I knew it Mark was in my classroom again. He was more handsome than ever and just as polite. Since he had to listen carefully to my instructions in the "new math," he did not talk as much in ninth grade as he had in the third.
One Friday, things just didn't feel right. We had worked hard on a new concept all week, and I sensed that the students were frowning, frustrated with themselves - and edgy with one another. I had to stop this crankiness before it got out of hand. So I asked them to list the names of the other students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name. Then I told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down. It took the remainder of he class period to finish the assignment, and as the students left the room, each one handed me the papers. Charlie smiled. Marked said, "Thank you for teaching me, Sister. Have a good weekend."
That Saturday, I wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper, and I listed what everyone else had said about that individual.
On Monday I gave each student his or her list. Before long, the entire class was smiling.
"Really?" I heard whispered.
"I never knew that meant anything to anyone!"
"I didn't know others liked me so much!"
No one ever mentioned those papers in class again. I never knew if they discussed them after class or with their parents, but it didn't matter. The exercise had accomplished its purpose. The students were happy with themselves and one another again.
That group of students moved on. Several years later, after I returned from vacation, my parents met me at the airport. As we were driving home, Mother asked me the usual questions about the trip - the weather, my experiences in general. There was a light lull in the conversation.
Mother gave Dad a side-ways glance and simply says, "Dad?"
My father cleared his throat as he usually did before something important. "The Eklunds called last night," he began.
"Really?" I said. "I haven't heard from them in years. I wonder how Mark is."
Dad responded quietly. "Mark was killed in Vietnam," he said. "The funeral is tomorrow, and his parents would like it if you could attend." To this day I can still point to the exact spot on I-494 where Dad told me about Mark.
I had never seen a serviceman in a military coffin before. Mark looked so handsome, so mature. All I could think at that moment was, Mark, I would give all the masking tape in the world if only you would talk to me. The church was packed with Mark's friends. Chuck's sister sang "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Why did it have to rain on the day of the funeral? It was difficult enough at the graveside. The pastor said the usual prayers, and the bugler played taps. One by one those who loved Mark took a last walk by the coffin and sprinkled it with holy water.
I was the last one to bless the coffin. As I stood there, one of the soldiers who had acted as pallbearer came up to me.
"Were you Mark's math teacher?" he asked. I nodded as I continued to stare at the coffin. "Mark talked about you a lot," he said.
After the funeral, most of Mark's former classmates headed to Chucks farmhouse for lunch. Mark's mother and father were there, obviously waiting for me.
"We want to show you something," his father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket.
"They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it."
Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times. I knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which I had listed all the good things each of Mark's classmates had said about him.
"Thank you so much for doing that" Mark's mother said. "As you can see, Mark treasured it."
Mark's classmates started to gather around us. Charlie smiled rather sheepishly and said, "I still have my list. It's in the top drawer of my desk at home."
Chuck's wife said, "Chuck asked me to put this in our wedding album."
"I have mine too," Marilyn said.
"It's in my diary." Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group.
"I carry this with me at all times," Vicki said without batting an eyelash. "I think we all saved our lists."
That's when I finally sat down and cried. I cried for Mark and for all his friends who would never see him again.
The purpose of this letter, is to encourage everyone to compliment the people you love and care about. We often tend to forget the importance of showing our affections and love. Sometimes the smallest of things, could mean the most to another. I am asking you, to please send this letter around and spread the message and encouragement, to express your love and caring by complimenting and being open with communication. The density of people in society, is so thick, that we forget that life will end one day. And we don't know when that one day will be. So please, I beg of you, to tell the people you love and care for, that they are special and important. Tell them, before it is too late. I leave these messages with you and ask you to continue to spread the message to everyone you know.
***** [Mar 23, 2005] by Yulanda Nealy
This selection makes warms my heart each time I read it. In fact, this activity is now an annual "mutual graduation gift" to the seniors in my English classes.
***** [Mar 31, 2004] by Lan
It reminds me how important to see my students as special persons that God have made. Thanks for the story.
**** [Feb 07, 2004] by Agnes
***** [Jan 10, 2004] by Ona Teks
It reminds me how important to show and to see how special we are and people around us. Everyone wants and needs to be acknowledged that they are special by others. THx for the story.
***** [Dec 22, 2002] by Dawn Goldthorn
You never know how much a kind word will bless another or make his/her day. Life is too short not to tell someone how much they mean to you!
***** [Sep 02, 2002] by Kathy Richardson
Very touching story. So many people do not take the time to let others know they do care, when it could mean life, or no-life..to someone. It only takes a minute. This is a story to keep and read again and again. To help us remember.
***** [Nov 11, 2001] by Sandy Miller
That was a really great story and it touched my heart. I am going to send it to my email friends and family. I am sure they will love it too.
***** [Nov 04, 2001] by Ali Mohamed
Nice theam I like it so much.