Today I learned one of the people who most influenced my lfe passed away. Jacquelyn Sylvia was a salty little white-haired English teacher. I remember the first time I met her as clearly as if it were yesterday. She was pulling duty in our high school study hall the day my math teacher thought it necessary to send me out of class. I’ll spare you the details, but you know those sporting events where the instigator gets off with nothing and the retaliating player gets caught? I got the penalty box, which in reality turned into a blessing. Maybe God really does use less than desirable events in our lives to show us His goodness.
Mrs. Sylvia convinced me to take her class the following year. At that time in my life, I wrote a lot of poetry and song lyrics. She submitted some of my work to a contest, and the work was published. She not only taught me the fundamentals of writing but that well-written stories or songs are told from the heart and experience. Without heart, your work lacks your personality.
“Robert, you spread so much B.S. on this paper I could grow a garden on it.” “Robert, you are going to cause me to go blind,” she would tell me when complaining about how small I write. “Robert, until you improve your penmanship, please print your assignments from now on.” I still print everything I do to this day. Through all the constructive criticism came constant encouragement, often with a snide comment at the end to remind you she was still in charge.
I often thought of going back to thank her, but I never did. I hope she’s smiling down from Heaven reading this over my shoulder as I type. Actually I know she is because I can hear her voice in my ear telling me, “Check your sentence structure in the third paragraph.”
Today, I encourage you to send a card, a letter, an e-mail, make a call, or even better, go visit someone who made an influence on your life and thank them. You never know when the chance may be taken away.
Rest in peace, Mrs. Sylvia, and please know you made a difference.