On May 27th, just a few short days from now, a dear friend of mine will retire from teaching. To be fair, this isn’t the first time. He first retired several years ago, certain that he had done his duty.
Bored out of his skull a few months later, he rejoined the campaign to stamp out ignorance in East Texas and returned to teach, coach, mentor, and inspire young people.
During his decades long career, he has touched hundreds of lives and changed more than a few. More than one student with a troubled home life has found temporary shelter in my buddy’s spare bedroom in his basement.
More than one student has been helped out financially when the parents have lost their jobs. We’re not talking anything as grand as college tuition. We’re talking lunch money, gas money, and grocery money for a young person and their family.
More than one student has called my friend, years after graduation, to ask him to officiate their wedding. (He is also an ordained minister.) One of the requests came from a former student who is gay. Even though his church’s policies prohibit presiding over same-sex weddings, he married the couple anyway. (While I am often known for the making grand proclamation, he is known for taking the quiet stand.)
He coached tennis and won a state championship. His students have gone on to do great things and stupid things. I like to think that they did great things because they listened to him and stupid things because they didn’t.
He would disagree and attempt to moderate my dogmatic position because he is more patient, generous, forgiving, and nonjudgmental than I am. He definitely likes people more than I do.
We all remember teachers who taught us, but there’s always a special place in our heart for a teacher who took a moment with us, a teacher who took an interest in us, a teacher who was there for us.
He’s one of those.
He is a meat-eating Texan. I am a vegetarian and like to fashion myself a citizen of the world. He is well-educated, with serious academic credentials. I have thumbed my nose at institutions of higher learning while recommending them highly to others.
He is a Christian and lives his faith daily. I practice my own home-brew of Hinduism and often fall short of my philosophy’s most basic directives.
He’ll retire to a gated community and dote over his grandchildren. I’ll never retire and, unless a medical miracle occurs, I will never have any grandchildren.
He has had a stable career, enjoying tangible rewards for his work. I’m, you know, a writer.
Aside from attending high school together, the casual observer may wonder what we have in common. I would reply, probably just the desire to be friends.
Obviously there is more than that. We have spoken on the phone most every weekend for the past few decades. About what, I really couldn’t recall. I don’t remember the subjects of our conversations, just the feeling I have when I hang up.
Usually, I’m smiling.
So on May 27th, which is also his birthday, he’ll be leaving campus for the last time. Students in his school will be poorer for it, but I’m sure another dedicated teacher will step in and step up, and be there for students when they are most needed.
My buddy will enjoy a summer of sleeping late, eating at restaurants in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week, and hitting the golf ball on a more regular basis.
In September, he’s going to join me here in Paris for a week. And it will be glorious.
Congratulations, BGC. On to the next chapter….