A Teacher's Impact



	   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 the class period to finish the assignment, and
	as the students left the room, each one handed me the papers.  Charlie
	smiled.  Mark 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 END
	      written by: Sister Helen P. Mrosia

	      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.







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