Ripples in life, as the ripples in water, are both hypnotizing and mysterious.
Like the ripples on the surface of water, my life has affected many people. The ripples are on the surface, but below the visible plane; these ripples create dynamic changes in people. We just do not always accept or see these changes. They may be far into the future.
For many years, I thought my life was a failure. As I reflect on what I did with my time, I did not, and to a certain extent, cannot accept the fact that much of my life was wasted, non-productive, and replete with failures.
In my schooling, I was not a scholar; I was not an athlete; and I was definitely not a part of the in crowd. I even failed out of college – twice. So, I joined the Marines to toughen my inner being. It did just that . . . sort of. I was not a great Marine, due to physical issues. My injuries earlier in my life kept flaring to keeping me from any true success. I was medically discharged before my unit was sent to Vietnam. Now, don’t get me wrong; I had no desire to go into combat, to kill, or be killed – or worse. Other than strengthening my fortitude, what purpose did my joining the Corps do for me, or the country? I seem to have wasted three years of my life. Pride, in itself, is no reward.
For almost thirty years, I labored as a small businessman, joining my parents’ retail business after my discharge from the Marines. I joined this business to assist my mother, when her camera salesman quit suddenly. I did not realize this at the time, but I was then trapped in this business for thirty years, due to the self-loathing of my mother and her constant threats of suicide. I left the business as a failure, broke, in debt, with only thirty years’ experience dealing with people for my efforts. This, however, prepared me for the next stage in my life.
Reflecting on this, I can now say that my long-held guilt of leaving the Marines early and the inability to turn the retail business into a profitable entity, did, in all likelihood, affect many people. I see now that in addition to giving me an understanding and compassion for others, my hiring of many young people over the years matured them in many ways. I remember one young lady, Rachel, whose only desire was to finish school, marry, and be the best mother she could be. Several years after she worked for me, she did return to share her new status as a mother. Another young employee, a boy, wanted to attend college and become a doctor. Unfortunately, I lost touch with both, but I am sure that they are very successful in whatever they are doing now; remembering that they are now both in their sixties. I am also sure that most of the others, and there were hundreds over thirty years, have been successful mature adults. Unfortunately, I have lost touch with them, and I remember few of their names and faces.
In 1993, I began my quest to becoming a teacher, by working as a swim coach for a local high school. This began when my son was still in school, I was the president of the booster club, and the swim team coach quit suddenly. For three years I labored as a coach, and a retailer. However, since 1997, after becoming a productive teacher, I did virtually everything in the school to promote the welfare and opportunities for all students. I had both boys and girls hug me for affection and thanks for how I treated them. As I have remained friends with many of them through Facebook, I continue to revel in their achievements.
Thinking about my early teaching career, I tutored a young lady, fat and on drugs, who would not conform to high school rules or society. I think we talked more about life’s successes and failures than we talked about history. She did graduate on time; I was hired as a full-time history teacher; and we parted ways. I met her years later, when she thanked me for all of the frank talks we had. She is now a history teacher in New Hampshire. One of the first students I had, when teaching in high school, was a young boy who had mild Asperger’s syndrome. He was in one of my history classes, and also asked to join the debate team I was mentoring. He is now an international banker. Another young man, who has Cerebral Palsy, has matured into a bright college student, majoring in film animation. Many of the young people I mentored are now parents in their own right and share their lives with me through Facebook.
My efforts with these students are ripples in the lives of many, as they go and share their talents with others. They are not only creating ripples on the surface, they are making waves in the lives of many.
I may at times revert to the insecure feelings I had before entering teaching, but deep inside, I know that what I have done for others is more important than any feelings of self-importance and success on my part. As I continue to teach at a local community college, I still am happy to know that I am affecting the lives of my students.
My wish now is to finish my life as a part-time English professor and a writer of inspirational literature that may or may not be shared with the general public. I still would like to be a positive influence for those around me.
I am reminded of the verses in Proverbs 17:3: The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests hearts. I believe that the only thing stopping me is the same type of ailment, magnified, that caused my early discharge from the Marines, but the Lord reached into me, and I am cured of the life-long pain that I have had from a severely injured back.
May God bless all of those I have influenced.