Yes, at 29, he was sure he held all the answers. He knew precisely how the world worked and his role in it.
To some he seemed confident. To others his unwavering confidence was simply arrogance. In either case, a weight was now crashing down upon him, a weight he was woefully unprepared to withstand. It buckled his knees, and if not for the hospital chair directly behind, it would have surely felled him.
The weight didn’t come from the 6-pound newborn in his arms. It came from the responsibility of what lay ahead. It came from the blank page looking up at him with clear blue eyes, looking for guidance in everything.
All arrogance, as well as any confidence he might have once had, left his body with a deep sigh. The child had blank pages that needed to be filled and would have endless questions. Yes, at 29, he was sure, he no longer had any of the answers.
From that moment on, everything the new father did was written down on one of the pages in his child’s book — both the good and the bad. Those clear blue eyes looked up to him and saw all. Little ears heard conversations in this room and the next, on the phone, and down the hallway.
The new father tried never to disappoint, but still felt unequipped for the job. Work had to be done. Bills still had to be paid. And all along, page after page in the child’s life was written whether he was actually home or not.
When the child reached school age, the young father did endless research and the family moved to a different area. After all, a good school system was synonymous with good teachers. From his own youth, he knew the long-lasting influence a single teacher could have on a young mind. Time passed, pages were filled with information, and the child grew up.
It was many years later before that same father again visited a similar hospital room. He stood across from his now grown son as a newborn baby girl was placed into his arms. He watched as the new father, holding the infant, collapsed into a nearby chair looking up with a question on his face.
If asked, I would’ve answered, “No, son. I didn’t have a clue what to do when you were born, either.”
For the next nine months teachers will spend more time with your children than you do. They’ll have classrooms full of young faces with blank pages craving to be filled.
What an honor it must be for teachers to inscribe their wisdom on all those pages. And what a tremendous responsibility it is. The weight of their job must be enormous — especially nowadays.
Teaching is a true calling, and it takes a unique person to answer that call. At the next conference, when you sit across from the teacher, remember you both are writing on the same page.
Tell them how much you appreciate the sacrifices they’ve made. After all, they’re not doing it for the money.
They’re teaching because of all the blank pages that still needing to be filled.
[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, served as a firefighter for more than two decades and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org. His books are available at www.RickRyckeley.com.]