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Life Arts    H3'ed 6/1/11

The Power of a Letter

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Suzana Megles
Message Suzana Megles

Guideposts often has inspirational stories and I love to share them with people
who don't subscribe.  This one is about a secondary school teacher who wondered if
she was getting through to her sophomore English class students in Georgia.  Believe
me -all teachers today have my respect.  They have to compete with all sorts of
technology - videos, I-phones, kindles, web cameras, etc. etc.  Seeing that I am stuck
in what might be considered pre-historic times when it comes to all these gizmos, I
can commiserate with her and all teachers. I don't even have a cell phone - the land
line has been servicing me for over 70 years and I'm of the opinion -if it ain't broke,
don't fix it.  But this post is not about me - it's about her.  And of course, the truth is
that I don't need a cell phone, but I think they are wonderful all the same and
especially useful in times of emergencies.

Lori Durham of Cincinnati, Ohio badly needed a teaching job- no matter where it
would take her, and indeed it finally took her far away from home to a small town in
rural Darien, Georgia.  She would settle in and do her very best she determined.

After three years teaching sophomore English students, she wondered if she had made
a mistake in her life's calling because she didn't feel as though she was getting through
to her students.   As she said in this post "I became a teacher to inspire kids and to help
them reach their full potential.  Was it happening she wondered?  I applaud her for her
lofty but should-be attainable goal. I hope that all teachers share it as well because I
doubt they will make it in their chosen profession without it.

Near the end of the school year -in May precisely, she came up with a project which she
hoped would engage and excite her students.  She told them that she was going to ask
them three questions about their life and their goals.  They were to answer them in the
form of a letter to themselves.  The letter would be placed in an envelope and sealed.
Then Durham promised she would mail them back to each participant in two years after
graduation from high school.  

The questions were:  Where have you been? (not a place but what are some of your
experiences?)  The second and third questions were -Where are you going and How will
you get there?   I found it a very interesting and unique way for helping her students
set goals - which now they probably had not been giving too much thought to as yet.

They worried that she would open them up and read them, but she said no - they would
get the unsealed envelope in two years.  The class wrote their "dissertations" and handed
them to Mrs.Durham. Placed in a manila folder, she deposited it on a shelf at home.  She
thought the assignment had merit and would make the same letter assignment to all her
classes for the next two years.

She sometimes wondered if this soul-searching project really made any difference
in her students' lives when she heard that Dawn, one of the original letter writers
had been in a serious  accident and was in a coma.  She remembered Dawn as one
of her best students who was now a senior, and of course, had written a letter almost
two years earlier. 

When she found the letter Dawn had written, she collapsed in a chair and cried.  What
should she do with the letter -destroy it or give it to her parents?  Would it upset
them?  She decided to pray to God for an answer. 

Her prayer was answered when she decided to ask Dawn's brother who was a freshman
to give it to his  parents.   She heard nothing further about Dawn and her condition until
later when Dawn's friends -Amy and Allison told her in January that she had responded to
the voice of her parents - even squeezing their hands when they spoke to her.

February brought more good news from Amy re Dawn.  She excitedly told Mrs. Durham
that Dawn had woken up last night.  She had asked for her mom then.  How wonderful
thought Mrs. Durham.  But Amy continued and said- but that's not all "Dawn asked for you

Well, I don't want to steal the thunder of this great post but needless to say that Dawn's
mother teared up when she met Durham and told her -"I can't thank you enough, We've
read that letter to Dawn every day.  It has brought her back to life.   Then knowing that
Durham had not read the letter - gave it to her to read.  The beginning was thoughtful and
expectant, but it was the last paragraph which was so exceptional:

"I pray to God that if something should come between me and my goals, he will get this letter
to me in time to make a difference.  Thanks, Durham!"

And not unexpectedly, when the two meet- teacher and former student, they hug each other
tightly with tears of joy streaming down their faces.  Durham then knew the answer to her
quest of making a difference.  She didn't have to wonder anymore.  By the way - the title of
this moving account is aptly called "A Teachable Moment."

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I have been concerned about animal suffering ever since
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