Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Tue, 25 Jun 1996 18:51:53 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Random Thought: A Letter From Sarah

I've just come back from a rejuvenating lunch with two deligthful, young, colleagues from the psych department that allowed me to weather the one block walk from my house to my office through this blistering 110 degree heat index without experiencing total dehydration. As I walked down the hall and approached my office, I saw a bulky envelope learning against the bottom of the door. I picked the envelope up. On it was hand-written, "You do make a difference." I gingerly carried it into the office, getting a Tootsie Pop on the way to the desk, sat down, and carefully opened it. Inside was a very small, beaten-up, inexpensive metal padlock with an "S" molded into one of it's rounded sides. Along with it was a letter from a non-traditional student I'll call Sarah. She was in the same class as Sam. As I read her letter over and over, it reminded me once again why I teach each day as if I'm going to meet my wife's family for the first time, and that every moment of hard work is worth it. It's rather lengthy, but well worth reading. I'd like to share it with you. I hope it inspires you as it does me to realize the sacredness of our mission as teachers of people and that the heart of a true education is the educating of the heart:

Dr. Schmier,
I wanted to give you a "thank you" something so I scrounged about my things to find something, and I picked this lock because it had an S on it. But, it's purpose is to symbolize, or rather, remind you not of me--but of the impact you had on my life and ultimately the lives of my children by helping me through your support and encouragement, and just listening all those hours to me unloading and almost saying nothing, to unlock a new life. I had such a poor beat-up image of myself that I had difficulty at first understanding the good you saw in me. You know that. You read about all that in my journal. Whenever you gave me a compliment at first I was quick to point out to myself what was wrong. When you first encouraged me, I reminded myself of my failures and guilt. I thought of the times being beaten as a child, of my mother drinking herself into stupors, of my run-ins with drugs and alcohol, of little more than whoring myself to anything that walked when I was a teemager, of my abusive ex-husband beating and kicking and yelling at me, and thinking I deserved it all. I played myself down to such a degree that I knew you would question your faith in me and leave me alone. But you hung in there day after day, shelled out yourself day after day with a smile or a nice word or a Tootsie Pop. I guess I was afraid to _feel_. Hurting became a habit, almost a kind of comfort. It was easier than trying to get rid of the hurt. It was easier to feel guilty and think that I might be innocent. But, I was a ball of feelings, stomped flat, bruised, bent, broken, unhealed. But, I told you all that when I talked your ears off. So I want to tell you now to make sure that you _know_ what this class meant to me and I know to others in the class, and don't think of retiring because we need the likes of you.

In the beginning with the _getting to know you_ exercises and the singing and the chair, I wondered, "Just what have I gotten myself into?" It all seemd so stupid and useless even though we "debriefed" after each exercise. As time passed, I began to appreciate history for the first time. It became interesting and meaningful. I finally realized why learning history was important. You brought it alive and into our lives through the tidbit conversations and arguments as well as those crazy projects of yours.

You taught me not only a great deal of history I know I will never forget, but also used history to teach life lessons because you were in our faces and refused to let us strive for anything less than our best even if it meant getting angry at you like a lot of us did, me also--at first--saying "who do you think you are." But, soon I began to do a self examination, almost without realizing it. I began to see my flaws and was motivated to correct them. The activities in class, the skits and games and scavenger hunts, began to bring me out of my shell, and out of my sharade (sic) of being "okay."

Life's stresses built up on me until I felt that I couldn't cope anymore. I needed a different kind of fix than a capsule or needle or bottle like I once used. I needed fixing. My thinking needed reprograming. The day I fell to pieces outside class and collapse in hysterical tears because I was scared shitless that no one would stop by ex-husband from hurting my children and me, and you sat down next to me without saying a word just being there, reached out with a helping hand, not asking questions or making judgements, took me to the school counselor who has been a blessing, and worked with me to make up the work I missed during that week until I could pulled myself together--I remember you saying that right now it was more important for me to get right than doing a project right-- was my first step toward putting the pieces back together to find exactly who _I_ am. It has been a life changing step that show me another way and I will be forever grateful.

During this class I have come to realize that I _do_ have the potential to be successful, which is completely opposite of what people in my life had brought me to believe. I found hope which is something I had almost completely lost. I found encouragement which is something I hadn't never received. I found anew love for myself, a deeper love for my children, and a new love for people. I learned the true meaning of diversity in this class working with African-Americans and males, and what a benefit it can be. I learned more about and gained a greater understanding of the Africam-American race. I learned not to be judgemental, but to look at what is inside a person and to know that the potential for growth is present in everyone and is continuous. I have begun to expect good things from people. I realize that I should not settle for less because I deserve the best as all people do. I'm trying to learn from my past. No, I take that back. You always said that trying is lying. I am learning from my past, to let it go, and strive to better my future, the future of my children, and do my part for the future of this world. I am allowing myself the dream of becoming an elementary teacher, a dream I thought before would be forever beyond my grasp. But now I believe that I can do it, and Lord willing, I WILL!! I want you to know because of you I have changed my major from accounting to elementary education. I want to make a difference in my life so that I can make a difference in the lives of my children and all the children that I possibly can, just as you have done for me. To love them, nuture them, teach them with the same passion for them and the subject that you have, let them know that they are worth something, show them that they have the potential to do great things, and help them become great learners. I see now that there are some caring people left in this world. In closing, to answer the question of what has this class meant for me?--I can sum it up in three words---a new life. Dr. Schmier, Louis, you have made a difference.

That small lock is as valuable to me as the Hope Diamond. It will hang on the wall of my office along with my other sacred objects of my teaching.

Make it a good day.


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" -\____

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