Write again… When we find our purpose

Published 7:11 pm Thursday, August 5, 2021

If — and I use the word “if” honestly — I had a positive impact on any of the students and athletes with whom I was provided the opportunity to share a bit of time over the years, I am grateful.

I consider myself truly fortunate to have had such opportunities.

As a teacher, I had an understanding, empathy, for those young lives for whom the academic side of their life wasn’t very successful.

Oh, yes. For you see, in elementary and high school, I wasn’t much of a student. For most subjects average or upper mid-level grades were usually my performance level. Except in math, specifically algebra. Had I not gotten help, and spent parts of two summers acquiring credit in both algebra I and II, I would never — that’s never — have met the requirement for acceptance into college. Sad, but true. You do what you have to do.

So what is your point here, old boy? Well, my point is, as I said at the outset, I understood what it was like to struggle, to be stressed, to fail, to wonder if things would really work out. That was my ever-present millstone during my school days.

After a year of college, I felt that meeting my military service obligation, then returning to school was my best option. In truth, I wanted to get away from academic endeavors, that is, put off college for a while then return and be committed to doing better.  Wishful thinking? An excuse to delay, defer? All of this, probably.

In a truly serendipitous opportunity, while in Germany I became active with AYA, American Youth Activities, which provided athletic and recreation activities for children of military families who lived overseas. I hadn’t even known that dependents of career service members could live with them, in certain duty assignments overseas. There were many such families in Europe, with lots of children, even well into adolescence. It was because of this experience that I found my calling, and that served as the major reason for my commitment to return to college, and to pursue this vocational dream of working with children.

And so I did, and guess what. I did well in college.

A teacher and a coach can, and often does, influence those young people with whom they work. There is the potential to be a positive force in a young person’s life; or not. Sometimes, unfortunately, a teacher or coach can be a negative force also.

I know that I had teachers and coaches who were influential in my life. In ways beneficial, both short- and long-term.

Then there was one high school coach, whose influence (ironically) was later helpful to me when I became a coach, and who was a smart, well-educated man. He would use sarcasm on occasion and thought some of us were “dumb cookies,” as he would express it. I learned from this experience too.

How did that help me when I began coaching, both in recreation and scholastic athletics and when I became a teacher also? It influenced me to not ever use sarcasm or say demeaning things about those entrusted to my care. Not ever.

Let me end this much-too-lengthy rambling by adding this: I was blessed to have the capacity, the humanity, to care, to truly love so many of those I taught and coached down through all the years.

This is the truth, and that was my blessing.

And as I often say, for that I am grateful.

Note: in last week’s column, near the end, bumper sticker was written as “bumper stick.” This error was the result of the “bumper sticker syndrome.” That is, “stuff” happens. This may have confused my three readers.