After thirty-two years I received two of my best Summer of God blessings in one week.
I reconnected with my two all-time favorite former students.
I taught them 7th grade English. Then, during their 8th and 9th grade years, I hand-picked them to join a special and very challenging creative writing and journalism class. I taught them for three years. I met with and befriended their parents. Those two kids and I had something special and personal. We became friends. That kind of thing could never happen today.
Michael Stewart, One Of The Best
Mike was very attentive. He wanted to get a good grade so he worked hard and didn’t mess around too much until we got to know each other. Then he loosened up a bit, but never to the point where he purposely called attention to himself or misbehaved. I never had to call him out. Mike was one of those kids we teachers enjoy teaching. They listen, they learn, then they reflect what you taught them in their work. Mike and students of his caliber are rare, and I was blessed to have him in my class.
He called me a “Creep” and a “Weirdo” in my yearbook, but also wrote that I was his favorite teacher. I’m still trying to figure that one out. If he thought I was a creep and was his favorite teacher, what does that say about his other teachers? I’ll have to ask him about that.
Mike found my profile on the LinkedIn website and sent me a message telling me he saw my name and was wanting to see what I’d been doing all this time. I just “happened” to be reviewing my profile on LinkedIn one day (I don’t check it often) and saw his message. I looked up his profile and discovered that we both live in the same city outside Atlanta. In fact our houses are only about 20 minutes apart.
We got together for lunch a few days later and swapped contact info and found out a little about each other. He’s a devout follower of Jesus. He and his wife and their two kids are active in their church (just a few miles from where we live), and he sang bass in his church’s praise team. I sing bass in our church’s praise team. He’s bald and I’m bald. We had great fun and promised each other we’d try to start meeting on a more regular basis. He is very successful in business and has an impeccable reputation in the banking and business community. I can’t take credit for any of that success, but at least he knows a dangling modifier from a dependent clause.
Mike pointed something out to me I’d never thought of before. 30 some years ago we knew each other and lived in the same town in another state. Today, we know each other, in a completely different capacity in a different state but in the same town. Is that a God thing or what?
And Then There’s Winfield
It is difficult for me to describe the relationship I had with my favorite student ever, Laurie Winfield (She’s Laurie Winfield Griffin now) and she and husband, Lee, live in Huntsville and have two kids in college. Winfield (I’ve always called her Winfield and she’s always called me Sawyer.) She and I clicked from almost the first day we met when she was a runny-nosed seventh grader. But Winfield was always two or three steps ahead of the crowd. She has the most endearing personality of any student, (or any adult) I have ever known. She was a brilliant student with a dynamic personality.
She always knew the answers. When I tried to pry answers out of my other students and they couldn’t answer, Winfield always knew the answer. At times she even corrected me. And she was right. She never came off as pretentious or condescending to anyone, even when she was whipping out the answers no one else knew. She was charming to a fault, always looking for ways to help other people.
She was also confident and determined. She didn’t let other people push her around or intimidate her. I once watched her walk right between two boys fighting in the hall because they were in her way.
I got to know her mom and dad, Brenda and Bill, spent time just chatting with them on the phone and in their home. At the end of Winfield’s last year I wrote Brenda and Bill a letter telling them how much I enjoyed my three years with Laurie and that I thought Laurie would grow into a happy and successful, well-adjusted woman. She did.
I looked her up in Huntsville this week and called her. We picked up right where we left off. We chatted and shared a few things about what’s gone on the last few decades, and we will stay in touch now like the friends we have always been. You know those friends you don’t see for years and then when you do it feels like you just talked to them yesterday? That’s Winfield and me. Her husband’s family lives in Atlanta and they come here once in a while. Her folks still live in Montgomery and my son lives there, so we’re hoping to get together either in Montgomery or Atlanta when the time is right.
Probably the most important thing, just like Mike and his family, Winfield and her husband both have committed relationships with Jesus Christ. (I didn’t have anything to do with that.) Of course that means that we’re not only rekindling long time relationships here on earth. We’re forging friendships that will last for eternity.
That’s about the best Summer of God blessing I could ever imagine.