Whose Life Was Changed More?

Many years ago, 1989 to be exact, I discovered the brilliant author, Pat Conroy. In a life of few regrets, I do regret not getting to meet him in person. Back in 2014, when he was scheduled to speak at the Writer’s Conference in San Miguel de Allende, Pat Conroy became ill and was unable to attend the conference, so I missed that opportunity. Then, of course, he passed away in 2016. But, he remains one of my favorite writers.

In the summer of 1989, Mack and I took our boys to Disney World – a dream-trip-of-a-lifetime. I read Conroy’s The Great Santini while standing in line for Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and remember it like it was yesterday.

Today, I ran across The Water is Wide on Netflix and have spent the afternoon re-watching that wonderful, inspiring movie. I’ve cried more than once – and in the most unexpected places. Like, when Mr. Conroy (the teacher) realizes that a student is deaf and changes his teaching techniques to accommodate. Or when he fights the powers that be to take the kids across the water to experience the world. And, when he goes back to the basics of ABCs with the 8th graders who can’t read, even when “the state” tells them that they have to read the grade level reader. Or when he tells the other teacher, “Hitting these people does not make them smarter.”

Watching this movie makes me know that, all those years ago (when my parents had their hearts set on me studying International Business), I made the right choice to become a teacher. Apart from becoming a preacher, I don’t think there is a higher calling. I long for my days in the classroom – especially my days in that really rough part of LA, where the students needed me (much like the kids in this movie need their teacher) to open their eyes to the world and to the joy of learning.

“I wonder then, whose life got changed more…theirs or mine.”
Pat Conroy, The Water is Wide.

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