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All the Good Things

Sister Helen P. Mrosia

[COMMENT:    Some 20 years ago (ca. 1993, I think), when I had set up an electronic bulletin board (or BBS - Bulletin Board Service) (the precursor to what we now call "websites") and was one of the first Internet Service Providers (AOL was just getting started...), I posted the below article. I do not recall from where I got it, but just now (September 2011) stumbled on it in some old and long neglected archives of the BBS.    E. Fox] 

 

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From: Dwight Ericsson <dericsson@huntington.edu>
All the Good Things:

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. Iwonder 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, Iwould 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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Date Posted - 09/05/2011   -   Date Last Edited - 07/07/2012