Throughout your lifetime, you will interact with thousands of people. Some of them you will never meet face to face such as people you only interact with on the Internet or when you call into a customer service center. While there are others who will play either a small or a large roll in your life – all of them have been carefully placed into your life by God, but some of them will forever leave a mark on who you are.
For myself, there were three such people who helped me become the person I am today by changing my life or my views on life, and all of them touched my life during my teenage years.
The neighbor who taught me what was important in life without ever saying a word
When I was in junior high (today it is called middle school) I struggled academically. When I brought home report cards that accurately reflected my academic woes, my father would be properly upset. He would lecture for hours “with grades like this you are not going to be anything more than a stupid garbage man or a dumb janitor”
To escape from the unhappiness in my home I spent as many hours as I could after school and on the weekends three doors down at a neighbor Rocky’s home.
Rocky had a wife and two sons. Unlike my father who every kid in the neighborhood avoided, when Rocky came home from work not only did his sons eagerly greet him but many of the other kids in the neighborhood was there to welcome him home – including myself.
Rocky was also “coach Rocky” to one of his son’s sport teams. I cannot recall my father ever coming to any of my brother or min sports activities.
Simply put, while my Dad earned good money as a mechanical engineer and was not popular in our neighborhood, everyone seemed to like Rocky who earned his living as head of maintenance for a local company.
God used my ignorance of not knowing that there is a difference between a janitor and a maintenance man when I was in junior high and Rocky to teach me that it doesn’t matter what you do for a living. All that really matters is that you do something you enjoy doing while always making sure your work is a honest job that can support your family.
The teacher who cared
Less than a year my behavior problems at school, one of the factors that had caused me to earn poor grades in Junior high, were the cause of me becoming expelled from high school before the end of my third week of my freshman year.
After spending four weeks at home, I was placed into a different school in a different school district in a special education program called Phase II. Phase Ii were for students with behavior problems. Instead of moving from classroom to classroom each hour like most freshman, I spent the entire school day in a classroom with seven other students and one teacher, Mrs. Lyons.
When one of us misbehaved, Mrs. Lyons would calmly say “I like you, I don’t like your behavior”.
Before hearing those words form Mrs. Lyons, I had always believed that when I behaved badly I was a bad person. God used Mrs. Lyon’s words to teach me that my bad behavior does not define who I am to everyone.
The friend who inspired me and I admired more than anyone else
During the year I was in Mrs. Lyon’s class, I became quick friends with Brian, a student who was in a neighboring classroom for students with severe learning disabilities.
Brian was living with cystic fibrosis, was three years behind his grade when it came to his reading and other academically measurable levels and wanted a high school diploma more than anyone else I knew at the time – including myself.
I owe these three people a “Thank You”
The end of my freshman year was the last time I ever saw Brian. I never got a chance to tell him how much I admired him for wanting to earn a high school diploma despite all the obstacles in his life. I never got a chance to thank him for being both an inspiration for myself and someone I use to push myself to achieve my goals.
If I could find Mrs. Lyons I would love to tell her “Thank you for teaching me that my bad behavior isn’t whom I am”
I recently found the email address of Rocky’s wife, and I have asked her to thank Rocky for the lesson he taught me while never saying a bad word aobut my parents. Because of Ricky showing me the right path without tearing down my Dad, I never speak badly of a adult in front of that adult’s child – and I never will.
But most of all – I thank God for putting these three people into my life when I needed them the most.