Having spent my life’s career in the field of public education — including 11 years as a classroom teacher — I’m always drawn to stories about teachers, especially teachers who inspire.
One such story was shared by Lisa Beamer some years ago. Lisa is the widow of Todd Beamer, who died heroically by yelling “Let’s roll”, while attempting to take down the terrorists on Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001.
Lisa said, “A very popular teacher I had in high school lost her husband when he suddenly died of a heart attack. Shortly after his death, the teacher returned to her classroom and quietly shared some insight about her recent experience.”
“With a sweet, gentle look of reflection on her face, she said: ‘Now that our class is nearly over, I would like to share a personal thought with all of you — a thought unrelated to this class, but something I feel is very important for you to know.
“She said ‘that every day each of us is put here on the earth to learn, share, love, appreciate and give of ourselves. None of us know when all this will come to an end. You see it can be taken away at any moment.
“‘Perhaps this is God’s way of telling us that we must make the most out of each and every single day we live.’
“Her eyes began to water as she continued. ‘So, I would like you all to make me a simple promise. From now on, on your way to school or perhaps on your way home find something beautiful and take notice.
“‘It doesn’t have to be something you see, it could be a scent, perhaps freshly baked bread wafting out of someone’s kitchen; or it could be the sound of a brisk breeze rustling the leaves in the trees.
“‘Perhaps it’s nothing more than the way the morning light catches an autumn leaf as it falls gently to the ground.
“‘Please look for things like these and cherish them. For although it may sound trite to some, these things are really the ‘stuff’ of life. The little things we are put here on earth to enjoy are the same things we often take for granted.’”
The class was completely silent. The students picked up their books and filed out of the room without even a whisper.
That afternoon Lisa Beamer, who had been a student in that class, said she noticed more things on her way home from school than she had that entire semester.
As she stated, “Every once in a while, I think of that teacher and remember what an impression she made on all of us, and I try to appreciate all those things that we all often overlook.”
So why not take notice of something special you see on your lunch hour this week? Go barefoot. Or walk on a quiet path at sunset. Stop on your way home and get a double dip ice cream cone. Or pause and really listen to the joyful sounds of children at play.
As it is early in this New Year, we would all do well to remember to be happy and conscious in the moment — for that moment really is your life-perhaps the last moment you’ll ever have.