Saturday, May 1, 2010


In 5th grade, 10 years old, I had my first male teacher, and he was a little tough. He was missing three fingers that had been blown off when he was a young boy and had picked up a shell casing near a military site. He was a good teacher, but Mr. Glaser was not one I ever wanted to upset.

WELL, one Monday Mom needed to leave for work, and Dad was off on a bender; he d
idn’t have a job at the time and was the usual sitter. We had a babysitter who covered if necessary, but she needed to come across town on the bus to reach us and wouldn’t be there until around 10 o'clock. I needed to watch the four little ones, and I was going to be late for school – VERY late. I was scared – BIG TIME. What was Mr. Glaser going to do to me?

When I walked in the door, he was on the other end of the classroom, and I’m sure my eyes were very big and very fearful. He stopped what he was doing and walked across the room to me -- and he picked me up and gave me a hug.

I realized that he understood, somehow, what life was like for me.

The sad part is that, in today’s world, he could h
ave been turned in, lost his job, ended up in jail. But he, in that one instant, encouraged and blessed me exceedingly. [I hope to see him in heaven and thank him for his kindness; I have often thanked the Lord for him.]
In junior high school my right hand was covere
d with at least 30 warts. During the winter the warts cracked and bled from the cold. I played sax and was embarrassed to have my hands out where they could be seen. I spent as much time as possible with my hands stuffed in my pockets or my fingers curled in so people wouldn’t notice.

Mrs. Harris, a mom across the alley from us, found a wart remover. It was brown, oily, smelly. I went to her house before and after school and she took a toothpick and dipped it in the remover and poked it into all the warts – which hurt a bit – and then covered them with band-aids. After a few weeks the warts disappeared. They never returned.


In 9th grade, my English teacher, Mrs. Andersen, gave me an assignment that opened one of life’s doors for me. She told me there was a book she wanted me to memorize. I had a month’s deadline. It was a Christmas story written a couple of years earlier by a very popular writer. I memorized it, performed it in several classes before Christmas break – and I have presented it hundreds of times since then in homes, child care facilities, schools, churches, hospitals, nursing homes, and many other events. It has continued to be popular.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
How the Grinch Stole Christmas cover.png
Author Dr. Seuss

Through Mrs. Anderson, acting, memorizing, and writing became a significant part of my life and my survival skills.

At the beginning of my Sophomore year, our family moved from Tacoma to a small lumber town in southern Washington. Later, when a Junior, I went to a graduation dinner with a Senior, Billy, a
sweet and gentle and very shy fellow who, for some reason, really liked me. It was our first, and only, official date. When I reached home, my dad, drunk, came out on the porch and started hollering. Billy drove off as soon I climbed out of the car. Even before I walked inside, my dad accused me of being out with a local “bad guy” – their cars were similar. I started screaming back, my usual response ... never could back off. After a few minutes of screaming back and forth, Dad started slamming me, repeatedly knocking me backwards, and I staggered through the living room, through the kitchen, into the back storage area, and banged into a storage cabinet, breaking its door. No one – not my Mom or sisters – came out to intervene. When it came to fights with my Dad, I was on my own. Period.

I don’t remember how the fight ended, whether I had bruises, or any physical injuri
es. The anger level, however, was over the top. I was furious.

I found out the next day that our screaming had awakened our neighbors. In the morning, one o
f them called my friend, Susie, before she left for school to warn her about how I might act. [I was known for slamming doors and throwing things. The teachers and admins understood, and, even though they dealt with me at school, they never told my parents.]

When I arrived, I walked into the study hall, the usual gathering place. Susie, a very quiet person, sat in the back, farthest from the doorway. Yet, as quiet as she was, just as I entered the room I heard her say to those around her, “Jo
yce called. Joanne had a fight with her dad last night. We need to leave her alone.” I instantly relaxed, knowing I didn’t have to try to fake it through my day.
If it wasn’t for gems, such as these, that were dr
opped into my dumpster, I would never have come to a place of enough hope to keep putting one foot in front of the other -- willing to fight depression, fight suicidal impulses, and avoid physical fights with others as they threatened to dump their garbage on me. I did not know that my dear Father God was preparing me for the day He would enter my life, transform my dumpster, and become my True Gem, One I can always rely on to sparkle and light my way through both everyday garbage and the overwhelming sin in our culture ... and blessing me more and more as the gems overtake my precious vessel.
Next: Part 3, the Vessel.


B. Meandering said...

I'm glad you decided to share this. I like the detail you added to the "Susie" part---explains why she would warn the others--why that was a good thing. Sounds like you had some understanding and observant faculty/administration in that they didn't call home on you.
Great post.

B. Meandering said...

My comments aren't getting through--I'd least I don't think so. I wrote a fairly long one!

B. Meandering said...

Ooops--guess they are!

Anne Lang Bundy said...

What is so very encouraging about reading this is thinking of the potential impact a single act of kindness may have. I'm guessing all those people long forgot what they did, because their kindness shows them the kind of people who probably showed such compassion to many people.

But in your world, their kindness was everything.

May I never be too busy to extend love to someone under such circumstances. Thank you for the testimony!

diana said...

I, too, was struck by the power of a single, small act of kindness and understanding. We don't give enough credence to their value, I don't think. Mother Theresa, right? "There are no great thing, only small things done with great love."