Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Fri, 8 Dec 1995 04:53:00 -0500 (EST)
Random Thought: The Power of Caring

I had been reading student journals and class evaluations all morning and on into the early afternoon when one stopped me dead in my tracks. I haven't done much since except read it over and over and over. Each time the tears make it as difficult to read as the last time. I've been grasping every word, sometimes touching the page with my fingertips. My office has seemed very warm. How do I share with you how I feel at this very moment. Words like uplifted, fulfilled, satisfied, proud, humble just seem hollow, lifeless, meaningless, maybe even trite. I'm sure there's a turn of a phrase or catchy word out there for this occasion, but I'm really at a loss of words. So, I think I should just let you listen to my silence as you read this student's entry:

     In all my 16 years of being a student I have never run
     across a teacher who thought and treated me much more
     than as a piece of black female shit.  But you cared
     enough about me to give me for the first time what no
     other teacher did:  respect, a chance to say what was on
     my mind and above all else, love.  You gave me a chance
     to realize I was capable of succeeding and capable of
     learning.  You gave me confidence that all my other
     teachers seemed to suck out of me like blood-sucking
     leeches.  You lifted me up when so many others stomped me
     into the ground.  So, I want to personally thank you for
     teaching me so much history, for believing in me and also
     for teaching me to believe in myself....

     Do you know when you did that the most?  You probably
     don't remember.  It probably seemed so unimportant.  But
     it was like an event for me.  It started when we were
     discussing a tid-bit in class that led to an argument
     about legalizing marijuana and I got up and told the
     class that I smoked to get high and feel good and that
     there was nothing wrong with it.  A few hours later you
     passed me near the fountain at the library.  You stopped
     and all you said was that you wanted me to think about
     that smoking was a roundtrip, you always come back to the
     low after the high, you always come back to what you're
     running from.  The pain always comes back.  But believing
     in myself is a high like nothing else for getting rid of
     the hurt.  You said it with such concern and sincerity
     that one of my friends with me called you a soapy sap. 
     I thought it was so jerky too and didn't think about it. 
     Then a few days later when you were walking into the
     Student Union and I asked you to have a picture button
     made with me, you didn't run away like you didn't want to
     be seen with a nigger pothead.  I don't think you thought
     much about doing it except having some crazy fun.  You
     probably didn't think it was all that important, but that
     was serious shit to me.  You don't know how much that
     picture of us now means to me.  After we had it made, I
     went to my room and looked at that picture and couldn't
     stop looking and thought that you didn't have to do
     anything like that.  You could have thought that I was a
     loser like everyone else thought and like I thought.  And
     I started crying, I couldn't stop crying for hours.  I
     realized how unhappy I was and getting high was my way of
     getting rid of my pain.  I see how the pain always came
     back like you said.  I want you to know that I realized
     I had a problem with drugs, but after I admitted to
     smoking a bunch of people came up to me to talk.  They
     didn't yell at me or give me any religious holier and
     thou crap.  They wanted to help and told me about
     themselves.  And some were white!  They and especially
     you made me realize that the life I was living was not my
     own.  I studied, worked, ate and slept around getting
     high.  I made myself miserable and thought that smoking
     would make it all better.  It was just making me more

     I am proud of the fact that I worked hard in this class
     and learned a lot.  I learned to speak my mind without
     being disrespectful and to listen.  I have learned to
     meet deadlines.  I have learned to depend on my triad
     members.  That was the hardest part for me, depending on
     someone else to come through.  But I learned to trust. 
     But, you know, the best part of all that was that they
     trusted and depended on me.  One time I let them down and
     it was the worst feeling in the world.  I cried as I
     apologized, and they understood and forgave me!  Me!!

     I want you to know that I don't need weed now to be
     happy.  I haven't had one in four weeks now.  I am damn
     proud of me and you should be of yourself.  You're right,
     succeeding is my natural high.  It feels damn good to be
     a part of something positive.  

     If anyone gives you any shit or makes fun of you because
     of the way you are and how you teach, send them to me. 
     I'll tell them that it doesn't take a whole lot to open
     a book and teach a lesson in front of a class, but it
     takes a lot of work, a lot of hard work, and tenderness
     to open a mind and educate a soul.  I'll show them know
     the power of caring.
I saw her a while ago. We didn't say much. She knew that I had read her journal. We just hugged and wished each other a joyous holiday. I told her if she ever felt she was faltering she knew where she could come and get a Tootsie Pop. She said she'd come by for a Tootsie Pop anyway. She gave me permission to share her words and feelings in the hope that, as she said,..... Well, you decide what she said.

That picture button, which I thought up until today was cute and which I threw carelessly in my dresser drawer, I went home to retrieve and now has an honored place among my sacred objects of teaching in my office and a reminder of the power of caring.

Have a good one.


Louis Schmier  (912-333-5947)
Department of History                      /~\    /\ /\
Valdosta State University          /^\    /   \  /  /~ \     /~\__/\
Valdosta, Georgia 31698           /   \__/     \/  /     /\ /~      \
                            /\/\-/ /^\___\______\_______/__/_______/^\
                          -_~     /  "If you want to climb mountains, \ /^\
                             _ _ /      don't practice on mole hills" -\____

Return to The Complete Random Thoughts of Louis Schmier
Return to the Random Thoughts of Louis Schmier
Return to Arbor Heights Elementary School