To see and be seen

stack-of-books-1024x682As an adult, I love to read.  There is virtually no better way to pass the time than curled up with a good book, or even a moderately not bad book.  As a traditionalist, I prefer the physical book, though the addition of unlimited book services online opens up an entire digital library that is just too great to pass up.

This was not always the case for me.  As a student, I was not a “bad” student, but I most certainly was a lazy one. When a teacher was delivering an assignment, I had the ability to discern whether that assignment was going to drastically affect my grade or not. 

Worksheets? No thanks.

Vocab words? I’ll pass. 

Five page paper with full citations and quotes?  I’m on it. 

Halfway through my sophomore year, I found myself in the class of the English teacher who had the reputation for being the meanest, strictest teacher in the department, if not the school. 

The funny thing was, I LOVED her.  She was brilliant.  She had a quick wit and tongue that I found amazing.  I ended up having her has an English teacher for my full Junior year, and into my Senior year, by that time for some AP Lit and Comp.  I loved that class. 

I never read for it, but I showed up for the discussions, the debates, the comments. 

Mrs. Beth Anne Hetzler talked to me frequently about my high C/low B grade, pointing out that if I would just READ the book, I would get a better grade.  I pointed out that by NOT reading the book, I was still placing ahead of the majority of my peers in the class. (Outwardly she did not find this funny, though inside I think she may have laughed a bit.)

Part way through my senior year, someone gave me a book to read, The Annals of Lystra.  For whatever reason, the book series drew me in, and I could not stop reading it. 

I read through most of my classes and even thought I was pretty slick sneaking into Mrs. Hetzler’s class.  I had the book hidden behind the text I was supposed to be reading.  Not a new trick, but I felt I was fairly successful at it, and read through the entire hour. 

At the end of the class, the woman, who stood right at 5’ tall approached me and said, “I don’t know what book you are reading, but I expect a 3-page report on my desk first thing Friday morning.” 

I smiled and asked how she knew, and her response was, “In the over 2 years you have been in my class, you have never stayed quiet for that long, and I have never seen you complete an entire book.” 

I knew I was caught, though I recognize now her wisdom.  Had I been disciplined, I most likely would not have picked that book back up.  In encouraging me to continue to read, and turning that into the assignment, she helped place one more brick in the foundation of my now life long habit (obsession).

She was the same teacher who, when seeing her out in public, years after graduation would ask me the simple question, “How are you?”

I remember standing in the aisles of the grocery store providing updates on my husband, kids, parents, all the typical stay-at-home mom type of information to which she responded, “That’s all fine and well, but the question was, how are YOU?”

The cranky teacher in the corner classroom.  The one with books stacked taller than she was.  The woman everyone was afraid of, saw me for me. Even at times when I couldn’t see myself. 

She passed away several years ago, and I cried and cried at the news. 

I miss her to this day.

My only hope is that at some point in this life, I am able to see someone, really see them, at a time that they need it the way that she did for me.

Now I have to go, I haven’t checked in on the book I am reading, and I am missing the characters.

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