Last Sunday I read the obituary of a man that changed my life – dead at 68 years old after over 40 years of teaching. His words and kindness supported me through my toughest times as I always remembered the way he made me feel as though I mattered, as though I had value. He taught me compassion and how to listen. More importantly, he taught me how to be, well, me.
1985 We get used to the way things are sometimes and just don’t realize that there may be a better way – especially when we are young. Children and teenagers often do not know of hope and future due to lack of life experiences – or, unfortunately, due to dreadful life experiences.
My parents loved me and had no idea what was happening to me and I was always too scared to tell them – so typical. I did not want to hurt them. I began high school much like I completed junior high and elementary school – by blindly walking through the motions – being driven by the choices made around me, about me, to me – rather than by my own choices. This is what I thought life was. I was soft spoken and painfully shy and always trying to make someone else happy. I believed I had no control, no voice. I felt worthless, lost, and invisible. I was suicidal. Enter Mr. Gale Marshall.
1987 As he taught me to value myself, I began to realize that I do have a future. I began to find my voice and test it out. As I tried to decide what I wanted to do with my life, I continued to struggle; I barely graduated high school due to attendance issues. I did not have adults in my personal life that knew how to get to college and my parents could not afford to send me, anyway. Unfortunately, the guidance counselors only spoke to those that knew what to ask. Through the years Mr. Marshall greeted me with care and concern and always took a moment to check in – always willing to listen. His genuine compassion reminded me daily that I mattered and that I could do whatever I set out to do. I graduated and decided that I wanted to be the one to find the invisible child. I wanted to be a teacher.
It took me nine years to earn my degree – that’s a post for another day. When I won District Teacher of the Year in 2015, the speech I gave to the auditorium full of teachers described the impact Gale Marshal had on my life. It was not one intervention or a specific act, but rather who he was every day that saved this little girl. He had no idea the impact he made. No idea.
Thank you, Mr. Marshall. May you rest in peace knowing that every day I try to continue your work and continue to seek out the invisible children in my classroom and lift them up with love. God bless you.
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