Do you read Ann Landers’ column? Well, I do. Since I don’t find the comic section particularly funny, Ann’s free advice to some of the most outrageous stories is, for me, sometimes just out right hilarious. Once in a while during the holidays, Ann will pull out of the archives a feel-good story that fits the mood of the season. I’m taking a page from her book and using a feel-good Thanksgiving blog I wrote four years ago. Nothing has changed about this story; I meant it then, and I mean it now. Enjoy a brief glimpse into my past.
I had the greatest grammar teacher ever. By the way, I just tried to spell grammar, and the spell check told me I spelled it wrong. Before there was spell check there was Liz Ray. She helped prepare me for some of the tasks I use in my job, such as writing and speaking. Yes, I took speech from her, and she always assigned someone to be the “uhh catcher.” “Uhh” is the word we use, although it’s not really a word, when we’re trying to collect our thoughts or stalling and praying for a genius phrase to fall out of our mouths when we really don’t have anything to say.
What made Mrs. Ray – yes, I’m old school and still believe in addressing people with proper titles – amazing was that she was both caring and professional at the same time. In one moment her effervescent spirit would light up a room with laughter, but in the next moment she could give you “the look” that said, “I am so disappointed in you.” One of those looks appeared after we let her out of the closet we had locked her in just for fun. She should have sent every one of us to the principal’s office, except for me, of course, because I don’t remember participating in this disrespectful deed. Did she do it? No, because she saw this as a teachable moment to help knuckleheads like me grow up and act right. She was also one of the godliest women I have ever met. She was deeply spiritual, and her life released a sweet fragrance of God’s love and grace.
I think I was her pet student; however, she made everyone feel that way. She wouldn’t permit us to say “shut up” to one another. We were to say, “practice pauciloquency.” Go ahead and look it up. That, too, was one of her regular assignments. Each week we were given a quiz on the words for the month from the “Word Power” section of the Reader’s Digest. Now I can use big words, and I even understand the meaning of some of them; but, whoever thought up the idea of diagraming sentences should be consigned to a place in Heaven I will avoid. To this day I say there is nothing wrong with a dangling participle if it wants to dangle. I think I just dangled a participle so please forgive me, Mrs. Ray, if you are reading this. Oh, I don’t think you are to finish a sentence with a preposition, so I meant “this article.” Editor’s note: It’s clear Mark has no recollection of what a participle or a preposition actually is. Please forgive him, Mrs. Ray.
So what does this have to do with anything? All of us have had a Mrs. Ray in our life to whom we owe our life. They gave us an opportunity to be the sports editor of the school newspaper – or, at least, Mrs. Ray did that for me. They loved us enough to give “the look” and say, “Mark I am so disappointed in you. Do you think that is the way a Christian should act?” They gave us confidence to write a weekly article. Mrs. Ray did that for me, too. So while I am looking forward to basking in the sweet aromas of Thanksgiving, I am also pausing to bask in gratitude and say, “Thank you, God, for giving me Mrs. Elizabeth Ray as my teacher and friend. She was amazing and still is.” Oh, my! I ended with a preposition, again. Editor’s note: There he goes again. Well, my next assignment is to send this to our Director of Communications, Sarah Klingler, to proof and make appropriate corrections to the grammar and punctuation. Sarah was an English major, and she takes what I write and makes it readable. So, uhh, that’s all I have to say this week.
No, wait, one more thing. The other day Mrs. Ray read one of my weekly blogs and sent me this message via email. “Mark, you are such an inspiration! You are so in tune with God that He speaks through you each week to help give encouragement and guidance to all of us. And you say it so well. You are a great writer using God’s gift willingly. Thank you so much!” No, Mrs. Ray, thank you! You gave me one of the best compliments I have ever received.
I promise I’ll close with this suggestion. For Thanksgiving this year, rather than being part of a conversation(s) that are sensitive, controversial, hurtful, and divisive, talk about your “Mrs. Ray.” This would make for a great conversation starter around the dinner table if each person would share about someone who made a difference in their life and say why they are grateful for that person. Your “Mrs. Ray” may be someone who is no longer living, but their impact is still very much alive in your heart. Make good memories this Thanksgiving season by remembering positive people who have added value to your life. Most of all, don’t forget to thank the One who made every good thing in your life possible. Happy Thanksgiving!