Munching donuts with students from a media writing lab I teach at the University of North Florida, I realized our Q&A had veered a little off-course and I was beginning to sound more like mom than a professor.
We spent the final few minutes of our course on waterfront benches instead of inside the stuffy classroom where I typically pushed them to produce AP style news stories, obituaries, blogs, and press releases.
I sensed it was a welcome change for them and it gave me a chance to touch base with 19 young people—many of whom I might never speak to again—and a few with whom I may yet again have an opportunity to encourage in an unexpected way.
Who will you impact in an unexpected way—and who has impacted you?
As Mother’s Day approaches and we focus on our mothers—and other women who have impacted our lives–I can’t help but to remember teachers, professors, and mentors whose words and actions still spring to mind decades later.
In kindergarten, I remember a friendly teacher sitting at a piano and bidding us to sing—loudly and clearly. It takes a special touch to shepherd children that young into a world where they will spend 13 years navigating classrooms with assorted other children. Kudos to those invest time in what I used to joke is tantamount to wiping noses and sharpening pencils. It is so much more.
Elementary school went by in a blur. Changing schools 18 times in an assortment of Southern California communities through the sixth grade, I can’t recall a single teacher—but I do remember learning to read. The story of Harriet Tubman captivated me. She was a woman responsible for saving 70 slaves through the Underground Railroad.In seventh grade, it was Mrs. Gregorian who picked up a paper I turned in during science class and made a statement not oft repeated. A parent volunteer filling in for our science teacher, she glanced at my writing assignment and said, “you must be a very smart girl.” Indeed, I would never again worry about the boys in that class, including her son, who teased me mercilessly about my great height (I towered above most of the boys) and hairy knees.
A wonderful youth group leader at church, Mrs. Sweetman, was also a great source of encouragement during those awkward pre-teen years. A “mom” to many with none of her own, she managed to predict positive outcomes though my home life was terribly chaotic at the time. Even after losing contact, years later she and her husband sent me a beautiful old-fashioned display of flowers after I earned my college degree. Her unselfishness was an example for how I would approach student work when I was involved with youth and then collegiate ministry in the eighties and nineties.
Finally, as this Mother Day approaches, I encourage us to remember all of the women who have greatly influenced and shaped our lives—whether they be moms, teachers, aunts, sisters, cousins, or mentors. In each of His creations, God has breathed unique relational and nurturing styles. I am reminded this Mother’s Day of the great women, including my mom, who have touched my life.
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