A teacher’s gift kept on giving (An internet story, an urban legend, author unknown.)  One day somewhere a teacher asked her students to…

A teacher’s gift kept on giving (An internet story, an urban legend, author unknown.) 

One day somewhere a teacher asked her students to list the names of their fellow students on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name.

Then she asked them to write down the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates.

The following Saturday, the teacher wrote the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper, and listed what everyone else had said about that individual.

On Monday she gave each student his, or her, list. Before long, the entire class was smiling. “Really?” she heard whispered.  “I never knew that I meant anything to anyone!” and, “I didn’t know others liked me so much,” were most of the comments.

No one ever mentioned those papers in class again. She never knew if they discussed them after class or with their parents, but it didn’t matter. The exercise had accomplished its purpose. The students were happy with themselves and one another.

Several years later, one of the students was killed in Vietnam and his teacher attended the funeral. The church was packed with his friends. One by one those who loved him took a last walk by the coffin. The teacher was the last one to bless the coffin.

One of the soldiers who acted as pallbearer joined her, and asked, “Were you Mark’s math teacher?”

To her positive reply he added, “Mark talked about you a lot.”

At a memorial luncheon later Mark’s mother and father approached the teacher and his father said, “We’d like to show you something.”

He carefully took two worn pieces of paper from his wallet and said, “They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it.”

She knew without being told it was the paper she’d given Mark that day in class so long ago, listing all the good things each of Mark’s classmates had said about him.

“Thank you so much for doing that,” Mark’s mother said. “As you can see, Mark treasured it.”

Many of Mark’s former classmates gathered around. Charlie smiled sheepishly and said, “I still have my list. It’s in the top drawer of my desk at home.”

Chuck’s wife said, “Chuck asked me to put his in our wedding album.”

“I have mine too,” Marilyn said. “It’s in my diary.”

Another classmate, Vicki, took out her wallet and showed Mark’s mom hers, which was like a twin of Mark’s, worn from being folded and unfolded many times.

“I carry this with me at all times,” Vicki said, “I think we all saved our lists.”

That’s when the teacher sat down and cried.

The innuendos in this tale can take us in more directions than a compass, though one is surely clear. We all grieve in their own way, although shared experiences, such as treasured messages from the past, help.

What matters is that we always remember men, women and children who die in war. How we remember personally is our concern, and our way. How we remember nationally should be the purview of those who know. The consequences of not remembering continue to haunt us.

It is the politician who makes war. It is the soldier who makes, and pays the price, for peace. 

General Lewis MacKenzie said recently in an interview that we are at war, make no mistake about it. So, in time of war should the national flag be flown at half-mast for every soldier killed in Afghanistan, and, lest we forget, those men and women serving in “peace-keeping” and other war like capacity in other forgotten parts of the world?

I suggest this is one matter where we must defer to those who are there, and who have been there. Our military men and women in Afghanistan and the members of the Royal Canadian Legion have agreed with the decision and action of our current government leaders.

The national media need to know when to back off, and so do the opposition parties. Let it rest! Let those who need it have some time in peace somewhere along their trail in the memory of a loved one’s death.

May they rest in peace.

In the morning, and at the going down of the sun we will remember them!

Lest we forget!