Opinions - 07-02-2008
Written by Bob Tribble   

A Fitting Story For Independence Day

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The story is told about a high school math teacher who left a big impression on her students, especially one young man who after graduation was killed in Vietnam. The story is especially fitting as we celebrate Independence Day Friday.

He was in my junior high math class, the teacher said. All 34 of my children were special to me, but Mark Eklund was one in a million. Very neat in appearance, he had that happy to be alive attitude that made even his occasional mischievousness delightful.

We had worked hard on a new math concept all week and I sensed that the students were frowning, frustrated with themselves and edgy with one another. I had to stop this crankiness before it got out of hand so I asked them to list the names of the other students on two sheets of paper. Then I told them to think of the nicest things they could say about each of their classmates and write them down.

The following Saturday I wrote the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper and I listed what everyone else had said about that individual. On Monday I gave each student a copy.

The years passed by and one morning I got a call from Mark’s parents. Mark had been killed in Vietnam and they wanted me to attend his funeral. The church was packed with Mark’s relatives and friends.

After the funeral Mark’s mother and father approached me. “We want to show you something,” his father said as he took a wallet out of his pocket. “They found this on Mark when he was killed.” He carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had been taped, folded and refolded several times. I knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which I had listed all the good things each of Mark’s classmates had said about him. “Thank you so much for doing that,” Mark’s mother said. “As you can see he treasured it.”

Mark’s classmates started to gather around us. Charlie smiled and said, “I still have my list. It’s in the top drawer of my desk.” Chuck’s wife said, “Chuck asked me to put his in our wedding album.” “I have mine too,” Marilyn said. “It’s in my diary.”

Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group. “I carry this with me at all times,” she said. “I know we all saved our list.” That is when I finally sat down and cried for Mark, his parents and all his friends who would never see him again.

The density of people in society is so thick that we forget that life will end one day. So please tell the people you love and care for that they are special and important to you. Tell them before it’s too late.

A very fitting true story for this upcoming Independence Day. Thank God for those who have fought and died so that we can have the freedoms that we do. Also, we should thank God for good caring school teachers.

In closing remember that freedom is no heritage. Preservation of freedom is a fresh challenge and a fresh conquest for each generation. The discovery that man is free is the greatest discovery of all ages. Have a safe and wonderful July Fourth Weekend!