I’ve Always Had Angels Looking Out For Me

In Kindergarten, I was out of class for six straight school days because of the chicken pox.  When I finally returned to class with my Big Bird velour turtle neck and my suddenly too-loose Garanimal pants, Ms. Hunter—mean and matronly old Ms. Hunter—gave me a huge hug that lifted me off the ground.  She missed me, and I felt it.

In first grade, I was heartbroken when Sister Lynn Michelle was transferred to another parish in a far away land called Michigan.  She wrote me letters from there in her perfect handwriting and sealed the envelope with stickers of Jesus sitting with little children.  She treasured me, her little pen pal.  I knew it even then.

In fifth grade, Mrs. Price found out that the girls in my class snubbed me in the lunchroom.  She told my parents about it and continued to look out for me the rest of the year.  She insisted on giving me a B in penmanship, but she loved me.  And I knew it.

Freshman year, Mrs. Medina read my essay about an accident in Hawaii where my friend’s father drowned.  She kept me after class to ask me how I was doing.  “I didn’t know you were there,” she said, apologizing for not talking to me sooner.  She was worried about me. I saw it in her eyes.

Junior year, Kelly Ray-Grady, the campus minister, was the attentive audience to what I thought was a near-nervous breakdown.  I told her about my secret throwing up, and she offered to get me counseling.  She made some calls on my behalf, and she sought me out at junior retreat. “How are you doing?” she asked with compassion.  I knew she cared; I knew she could see me.

Senior year, Mr. Bridwell balked when I told him I was headed to a giant state university where the English department was third-rate.  “I know people at SMU,” he said, concerned that something inside me would fail to blossom in College Station. He wanted me to have more; he was willing to call in favors.  I heard his love in his offer.

When I got my Master’s degree, I was paralyzed with fear and crippled by a sense of inadequacy.  I was out of my element and half out of my mind.  Deborah Nelsen, my thesis advisor, told me to keep reading and keep writing.  “Keep the focus on yourself and your passion,” she counseled.  I knew she wanted me to succeed.  Instead of dropping out of graduate school and slinking back to Texas, I kept at it.  I saw her at graduation, smiling broadly at me.  I could feel her warm wishes for me.

These were my teachers, my helpers, and my mentors. Their hands on my back guided me forward when it seemed impossible or when I didn’t even know I needed guidance or when I was just a little girl, pox-scarred and happy to see that my teacher remembered me even after missing a week and a day of school.

None of these teachers saved my life in an emergency, but each helped me understand that I had a life worth living, talents worth sharing, and losses worth grieving.  I can still feel their supportive hands on my back, and I feel their spirits cheering me on still today.

For each of them, I say a prayer of gratitude tonight.


71 thoughts on “I’ve Always Had Angels Looking Out For Me

  1. Beautiful. I’m also wildly impressed by your memory. I’m making a resolution to write things down more – the good things. We need to remember the good.

  2. Lovely, lovely post. Shout outs from me to Mrs. Rochner, Mrs. Allen (she was a Mormon; I thought that was so cool), Mr. Rahn, Mrs. Thomas, and Mrs. Flynn (and more I can’t think of now). Drs. Zimmerman & La Prade from SMU attended my mother’s funeral–I will NEVER forget that act of kindness.

  3. Fourth grade. Mrs. Makel. She told me my fictional story about surviving a horrific car accident was special. She found me in fifth and sixth grades to ask if I was still writing. I knew she cared. She made it a point to let me know she cared. I will never forget it.

  4. Julie’s dad. I had forgotten that you were there. I hope you got the help and support you needed after that traumatic experience. Kids need emotional support more than we think. My emotional needs as a child got skipped over unfortunately, so now I’m doing for myself what should have been done long ago. 🙂 Lovely post. Enjoyed the reminders of the teachers from UA. And yes, angels are among us in many forms.

  5. Lovely and written with the perfect sentiment, hooray for all of the excellent teachers who listened to their calling and ended up teaching the students they were absolutely meant to teach.

  6. As an educator I pray that I have had a positive impact such as those you mentioned on at least one of my students each year over the past 16 years and that I continue to positively impact at least one student every year going forward. Thank you for the warm fuzzies and reminder that I am doing good work.

  7. beautiful… and i have to say, i’m a little jealous of your memory (and your teachers). i really struggle for moments of my past… i seem to have a very big denial box in my head. 😉

  8. This is a beautiful tribute to such very important people. I hope they are feeling blessed this holiday season, and I hope the love shared in this post reaches them in some form.

  9. What a great tribute! Hopefully we’ve all had a few wonderful teachers that made a difference in our lives. For me that includes Mr. Banfield, Mr. McNair, Dr. Brooke, Dr. Fingard, and Dr. Morton.

    It feels good to make a difference. I once taught a few years in a program designed to teach disadvantaged mature students how to become teachers, especially in inner city schools. They were a rough bunch at first but we worked hard together, improving their reading, writing, and analytical skills, while I taught them history. I paid my dues there in that old school with nothing but a crappy overhead projector and a cracked chalkboard in the classroom. I never felt more appreciated as a professor.

  10. What a wonderful tribute to your teachers! I hope they read this. I still send a holiday card to my first and second grade teacher (I had her for both). It’s the most noble profession – they need to get paid what they are worth!

  11. I was blessed to have teachers like this too. Thanks for writing such beautiful memories, that sparked memories in me too. That’s a sign of good writing, I think.

  12. Love hearing some of those names! My personal favories from high school were Ms. Pierce, the art teacher, Mrs. Murad, and Mrs. Dorfmeister. And in a kind of sick, twisted way, I enjoyed the stoic, sometimes frightening, Sister Damien Flood. Will never forget her or her fill-in-the-blank Old Testament tests. I start to sweat just thinking about them.

  13. I pray for my children every night. I lay my hands on them, close my eyes and pray. I ask for God to place adults in their lives that will help guide and support them both. It makes me happy to know you had special adults in your life who did these things for you.

    • I know. I am truly blessed. I hope the same things for my kids. When I see how Sadie looks at her preschool teacher, I can see it may be happening right now. God bless your kids!!

      On Tue, Dec 18, 2012 at 10:19 PM, Outlaw Mama

  14. This was just beautiful. A truly caring teacher makes such a big difference in a child’s life. I’m so happy that you were so blessed!

  15. A perfect choice for this week (and always, frankly.) You have inspired me to look back at my teachers and mentors in a new way. There are a lot of caring people in the world. We must never forget that.

  16. Such a beautiful piece. It’s true, those special teachers we are fortunate enough to come into contact with throughout our school years really do make a difference and leave an indelible impact on our young lives. What a wonderful gift that you had so many caring mentors.

  17. This was beautiful. I think it’s important that teachers know how important they are to kids, even if the thing they do seems like it’s not a life-saving moment. Sometimes, as I think is the case here, they are life-altering, and that is just as important.

  18. Christie, all the good compliments were already taken, so I’ll just thank you for finding a different path to walk in writing about this issue. The one you chose undoubtedly offers the best journey to healing.

  19. This was so nice to read. Of course it brought up memories of all of MY fantastic teachers. There are so many of them, aren’t there? A lovely, breath of fresh air from the heaviness of the tragedy.

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