PART 10 ~ Going back in Time to January of 1963 through June of 1973: A Brilliant, Creative, and Multi-Talented Teacher Named Mr. D.
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“Let my teaching fall on you like rain;
let my speech settle like dew.
Let my words fall like rain on tender grass,
like gentle showers on young plants.”
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PEGGY CONTINUES HER TESTIMONY:
The time period was January of 1963, yes that’s nineteen SIXTY-THREE! I was an eight year old child with my dear father, visiting at his place of employment. Dad was the local High School Band Director. Perhaps he had his “pep-band” playing in the stands at a basketball game that night. I’m not sure of any of those details. But there is one encounter that happened that evening that I will never forget.
At the time of the encounter, everything was relatively quiet. When the basketball game was finished, Dad took my hand as he walked toward a man standing alone on a portion of the court. My Dad spoke with him for a while and the man responded. All I know is that there was something very special about this man. He seemed quiet with a tremendous inner strength. I pondered his name as we walked away. It was Mr. D.
The next thing that I remember is one year later. I was in fourth grade, and started to enjoy writing poetry. Of course, my parents were interested in my work at school and wanted to encourage me. Dad asked me if he could borrow a few of my poems, and I sand “sure”! Well, a few days later, Dad handed the poems back to me in a nice folder. I opened it up, and I was stunned. There was absolutely the nicest, kindest, and most encouraging note I ever read. It was addressed to me and it was a full page long. Who could this be from? At the bottom, I read these words: “Sincerely, Mr. D.” Oh, wow, it was Mr. D. again! There really was “something” about this man.
Two years later, I was in sixth grade and really enjoying reading lots of books. The next thing I knew, my Dad asked me if I thought I’d enjoy taking a “Speed Reading Course.” I told him definitely “yes.” (I just found out a few months ago that this Course was my Mom’s idea, though….I had always credited it to Dad.) I found out that it would be an evening Adult School Course at the High School where Dad taught. I also found out that I would be the only “child” in the course in a group of adults. “Who will the teacher be?” I asked Dad. Can you guess? The answer, once again was “Mr. D”!
I still remember the evening before the first class. Dad had just been hired as a church organist and choir director at a new church. The minister and his wife were very hospitable and asked our family over to “the Manse” (their charming home) for dinner. We had a wonderful time together. There was evidence of their love of the Lord all through their home. For example, in the kitchen was a picture of a man with bowed head, giving thanks for a loaf of bread. Dad soon announced that it was time to take me to “Speed-Reading Class” for the first meeting.
I believe two of Rev. and Mrs. P’s three daughters (all just about the same ages as my brothers and I) went along.
As we walked down the school hall to that classroom, I purposed in my heart that I wanted to discern if Mr. D. really loved the Lord. Well, naturally, I didn’t speak with him about it, but I definitely noticed a supreme skill in teaching, an extreme focus on goals, an upbeat and positive personality, and a tangible kindness and caring demonstrated to all the participants in the class. I learned so much, and I used those skills through all of my schooling, and continue to use them even to this day!
There’s one strange thing I remember now. I had some scrap paper in Mr. D’s class one night. I wrote on it my initials, P.A.C. Then right under them I wrote P.A.D…..and you all can figure out where the “D.” came from! It was extra strange because I had never before or since done anything like that! I believe I asked Dad if he was married and he said, “no.” I was secretly relieved at that information, but wasn’t sure why.
Okay, going back two paragraphs above where I stated as a sixth grader that “I purposed in my heart that I wanted to discern if Mr. D. really loved the Lord. Well, naturally, I didn’t speak with him about it.” Well, I didn’t ask anyone else about it either, and actually didn’t concentrate on that question after that. I reasoned that it was okay if I didn’t know a specific answer to the question because Mr. D. was certainly demonstrating as much love, caring, (and at various times, I saw joy, too), as any of the fine people at church. I didn’t realize it then, but now I know that these qualities were none other than the precious the Fruit of the Spirit!
“By their fruit you will recognize them. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?” (Matthew 7:16)
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
BUT, God is good about answering questions in His time. This time His time was QUICK! Witness what happened a month or two after the “Speed Reading Course” had concluded: Mom was talking with me in our pleasant and comfortable kitchen about the up-coming Ecumenical Good Friday Service to be held at our church. The word “ecumenical” refers to the participation of all local churches in that geographic area. That included all Protestant and Catholic Churches. I always loved it when “the Body of Christ” worshipped together like that. Mom continued to describe the Service to me. She said, “there will be seven different clergymen participating. They will each speak on one of the “Seven Last Words (phrases) of Jesus” on the Cross.
I thought to myself that this would be SO special. Then her next statement totally “floored” me. Mom stated quietly, as was always her manner, “and Mr. D. will be one of the seven speakers.” WHAT? WHOA! I thought my question about him loving the Lord had most likely been answered! He was not an ordained clergyman, but was going to volunteer his time to deliver a talk on one of Jesus’ Seven Last Words on the Cross! I truly believe he loves Jesus! This made me so very happy!
The day of the Good Friday Service came. I was excited about the ecumenical gathering, but was always sad on Good Fridays. It was sad being reminded of the things that “blinded” people did to Our Lord on that pivotal day in history (HIS STORY). This is interesting- can you believe that I remember the exact dress and all of its details that I wore that day as I sat in the pew with my mother as my father played soft, somber, but beautiful music on the church organ for the 3 Hour Service? I watched intently and listened closely as Mr. D. spoke on the Word,“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
“About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ ”
(which means “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”) ~ (Matthew 27:46)
He was quite somber and serious in keeping with the day and the content of his message. His message touched me very much. I delighted to imagine that many other hearts must have been touched by his message, too, even though they didn’t know Mr. D. at all. He had never spoken at our church before. Also, I pondered the thought that I didn’t think there was another teacher in the school system that was capable of both extraordinary teaching AND of standing up and delivering a heart-opening message about Our Lord. How did Mr. D. get invited, by the way? I asked my mother afterward. She replied, “Your Father thought he would be a good choice, and Rev. P. consented.” In summary, I concluded that Mr. D. was even more of a “one of a kind” man than I had prior to that day, known him to be. Just then a strong feeling practically overwhelmed me: I was so very PROUD of him!
As a quick side-note, Rev. and Mrs. P and family (our church minister, his wife, and three daughters) were dearly loved by all. They definitely demonstrated so many beautiful fruit of the Spirit! Rev. P. would take me along with him when he ministered to people in the church-affiliated nursing home, quite a distance away, even when I was only in sixth grade. Rev. P would deliver a short message, and I would play the piano for the music portion.
It was a real privilege! Well, an interesting point is this: Rev. P’s title, first name and middle initial was “Rev. James E.” Can you guess what Mr. D’s were? YES! “Mr. James E.”!!
AND I had only two siblings, who were both younger brothers. Can you guess again? The older of the two was named “James” and the younger had the identical name as “E”!!
Now, back to the story: next came eighth grade at the Jr. High and High School. I was excited to have Mr. D. as my English Teacher! He was just as fabulous then as in the “Speed Reading Course.” I remember the first class meeting. Once again, he was tremendously focused and had total control of the class at all times. When the class dismissed, I remember rave reviews about him coming from the “kids” as they walked down the hall. I knew I was in for a rare learning adventure for that course.
I got to experience the creativity that Mr. D. infused into his teaching in the wonderful assignments that he gave us. He assigned us a “Comparative Critique” between two books. I had never had an assignment like that before. He wanted to encourage critical thinking; thinking for ourselves. It was great when I received that term paper back with an A+ on it! And true to Mr. D’s style, there was a beautiful hand written note (fairly detailed) covering most of the front cover! I still have a copy of that term paper and the treasured encouraging note.
Next, Mr. D. involved our class in a play called “The ‘In Group.’ ” Now seriously, I don’t remember all of the details of that play, but I do remember it was thought-provoking as to the “dangers” of identifying one-self too heavily with cliques. I believe that he selected about ten members of the class to participate, and we would rehearse in one of the member’s homes after school hours and on weekends. Next, Mr. D. had us perform it for the student body in the “Little Theater” at the High School.
Following that (in those days teachers didn’t have to go through a lot of “red tape” for everything they wanted to do), Mr. D. contacted the parents of four of the young “actors,” and that included me. Mr. D. was involved in playing a main part in a local Theater production of the musical “Fanny.” He came around to our homes with his car and took us to a practice to expand our interest in “theater.” Then, he took us to a wonderful local ice cream place and we sat around the table and enthusiastically discussed the play as he treated each of us to ice cream. Wow, this man really went above and beyond in trying to enrich the lives of his students! It was incredible!
The next thing was that I received a message from the guidance counselor that Mr. D. had selected me to speak to the incoming sixth graders. They were coming to the Junior High for orientation. They would be students there next year. Well, although I was good at acting, I was still pretty quiet in general. I think Mr. D must’ve been trying to bring me out of my “shell” a bit through this assignment. It ended up being a very positive experience. I was excited to be a role model for my brother in that way, although he was a near-perfect sibling, I always thought!
Next I wrote another term paper for Mr. D, and one day got a notice that Mr. D. wanted to see me in his office. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong. Never in my life had I got less than a perfect mark in “conduct.” I went to his office on my lunch break immediately after eating. I couldn’t wait to go. I was there for about 5 minutes as he complimented me on my latest term paper, and gave me additional encouragement. I think he did this for other students as well. Mr. D. had a very attractive, relatively large office. It was located at the corner of where two halls intersected. It had long windows on each side so you could look in and see him in there. Pretty soon, I noticed numerous students going in there on their lunch hours. There were girls and boys of all of the various levels of educational success frequenting his office. What was happening is that he apparently had volunteered his time to counsel these students in any way that he could. He was definitely a man that aspired to minister to the “whole child” in any way possible.
One day a group of girls left his office smiling and uplifted because he must have helped them in some key ways, and a certain thought crossed my mind. The thought really surprised me. It was, “someday when I’m all grown up, Mr. D., you will BE WITH ME. We will be married.”
The thought felt like it was coming from a place deep inside of me that wasn’t accessed very often. Somehow, though, that place inside me seemed to open up at the thought of Mr.D. and especially when I was in near proximity to him.
Then a few years went by and Mr. D. contacted my parents. He wanted to take me to the home of the very talented and Christian director of the local theater group to meet her. This group performed Broadway musicals. They were always very “clean” back in that time. I wasn’t sure of the purpose of the meeting, but I fully trusted Mr. D. and went along gladly. Perhaps he knew my piano abilities and thought that perhaps I could be a rehearsal accompanist for her group. It was wonderful to meet such a fine and talented lady. I also enjoyed Mr. D’s quiet inner strength and focused conversation as well as innocent sense of humor as he spoke with the lady director and as he transported me there and back.
Fairly soon after that, Mr. D. came around to my house to pick me up to audition for the position of the Theater Rehearsal and Performance Accompanist. If the truth be told, I thought it was very nice of him, but I was already as totally involved with music as I wanted to be. I was in my Dad’s Concert Band, Marching Band, Stage Band, and Pep Band playing flute and piccolo. I was in the High School Choir and was one of the piano accompanists for it. In addition, I was in my Dad’s church choir, and sometimes accompanied his choral cantatas on the organ. I played a grand piano every Sunday for the High School worship service before our Sunday School lessons, as well as flute solos in church.
Eventually, at age 16, I was employed as a church organist at a little white church. I still attended Youth Group at our family’s church in the evening. Private piano lessons were also on the weekly schedule. I knew if I wanted to do anything extra in music, it would have to be for God, not the secular world. However, once again, I was very impressed with the quality of conversations that Mr. D. and I had as he transported me back and forth. I was relieved that I didn’t receive the position as Theater Rehearsal Accompanist! Yeah….more time for God’s work; and folks, you can’t believe the beautiful lavender light appearing like crazy on this script right now as I’m typing! It’s appearing in big masses and flashing on and off. It is confirmation of “more time for God’s work.” I guess we should all take heed! Perhaps we need to manage our time wisely “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). This is amazing!
Soon, I found myself with one or two other music students playing a piano at a local Lion’s Club Meeting. I remember playing some classical music by the French composer, Debussy. Can you guess? Mr. D. had arranged it somehow. I don’t remember him transporting us there (perhaps we were old enough by this time that we could drive ourselves). However, I do remember his presence at the meeting. He seemed to be fairly quiet, but still very focused in this situation. There was something different in a wonderful way about that man, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
Some years went quickly by, and I didn’t remember seeing Mr. D. too much. Somehow, underneath all of the wonderful activities in my life, he was missed! Apparently he had also become a Learning Disabilities Specialist, thinking that he could reach more students that way. He was assigned to the entire K-12 School district in that capacity and spent his time travelling to many schools. However, one afternoon I was in a Public Speaking class and Mr. D. showed up as a substitute teacher. It was such a pleasant surprise! His topic was “Extemporaneous Speeches,” meaning short speeches made with no prior preparation. He was getting ready to call on students to stand up “on the spot” and start speaking on a given topic. I prayed to the Lord that he would NOT call on “quiet me.” Praise God, he didn’t!
Next, it was June of 1973, I donned my white Cap and Gown and played “Pomp and Circumstance” on the school’s grand piano on stage for our class’s Baccalaureate Service which was an ecumenical service (meaning the combined efforts of the various denominations in the School District). My class marched down the two aisles of the auditorium to my piano harmonies. My Mom told me later that my brother tapped her and said, “Peggy looks like an angel!” Then another day found me playing “first chair” flute in Dad’s Concert Band out on the football field for the opening Prelude for the actual Graduation Ceremony. Then it was time to get in line as the underclassmen played “Pomp and Circumstance.”
When it was the Choir’s turn to perform, they had a piano out on the field for me and I accompanied them to “No Man is an Island.” The words continue: “no man stands alone, each man’s joy is joy to me, each man’s grief is my own.” That is so profound! If there were other songs, I don’t remember them now.
I was called up to receive my Diploma and also received Honor Society, “Daughters of the American Revolution” -Excellent Character, Best Musician, and Piano Awards. All of the speeches were great. I knew they would be, since I knew that Mr. D. had coached every one of them, and had done that every year of his prior career.
As a side-note, Mr. D. coached every one of the speeches for his ENTIRE career! I knew that Mr. D. also had an award-winning Debate Team. No one could beat his Debate Team no matter who or where they competed. He coached this team on his own time and gave many extra hours to everything they did. Many trophies stand in the School’s Lobby Showcase from that endeavor to this very day.
But I digressed. I clearly remember when “marching out” to the Recessional at the conclusion of the Graduation Ceremony that I purposely scanned the risers and the crowd standing nearby. I saw many teachers that I had over the years, but someone SUPER IMPORTANT was missing! You guessed it again. The hollow vacancy was there because there was “no Mr. D,” or at least I never got a last glimpse of him. That was very sad. I wondered if I’d ever see him again. Somehow that just didn’t seem right to me. I did know one thing for sure: I was exceedingly grateful that Mr. D. had been a precious and irreplaceable part of those beautiful 10 years in my life!
“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.”
Please stay with me as I continue the account of Mr. D. in my life. There really is a point to all of these details. There is a Prophetic Picture here! I will point it out sometime in the near future of these writings. Perhaps you will even figure it out yourself ahead of time.
Thanks again for exercising your “fruit of the Spirit,” patience, as the story continues to unfold…….Peggy
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