It was fourth grade and parents’ day was approaching. Parents’ day was the one day of the year that parents come to the school, meet the teacher, and admire the small work of art or craft their child has created.
It is also the dreaded day when both my parents would meet each of my teachers face to face.
L.F. Corley Elementary school was brand new. My class was the first fourth-grade class to attend this modern new building. The building itself was an experiment in design. It failed.
We were seated in “pods” facing the teacher with retractable walls between pie shaped rooms. The rear of the room had no wall and was wide open to the other three rooms with a large common area acting as some form of a hub. It was awful. But I was the guinea pig and had no voice in the design.
On this day our homeroom teacher gave us an assignment to draw something on a paper bag. My deal has always been the mountains. I drew mountains. Some were covered with snow, others jagged with pointed tops. I was proud of my work.
Then the teacher walked by surveying the handiwork of her pupils. When she came to me, I just knew she would beam with pride and show my art to the entire school as an example of what a talented student could produce. She didn’t. She accused me of copying someone else!
I was devastated. It wasn’t like we were going to be graded on this thing. It was just a picture to be put on display for our parents. I did not copy anybody’s work.
I don’t know if that was the first time in my life that words hurt. I do know that was in 1969 and I’m still a little torqued about it. The teacher lived only two blocks from my home and each time I rode by, my mind drifted to dreams of pay back.
I never took my revenge, and I never told her. As an adult, time and again, I actually thought of stopping by her home and telling her that I didn’t cheat. I never did.
The story is told of Earnest Hemingway talking with friends in a bar. I know, hard to imagine Hemingway in a bar. The discussion drifted to how words carry an emotion and how few words can do so. The truth of the matter is that the details vary. However, the point of that meeting remains constant.
Hemingway said he could create an emotion in six words. His companions laughed. He took a napkin and penned: “For sale. Baby’s shoes. Never worn.”
Words matter. More specifically, your words matter.
Each day we can speak wrath or speak life. Speak life every time you can. Your words may make a difference in the life of someone in a way you will never know.
Today, somebody needs your words.
Aaron Johnson is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News. He is pastor of Christ Redeemer Church in Guntersville.
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