My wife, Michelle, is always amazed at the closeness of me and my high school friends. And she’s amazed also at the continuing personal investments that my former teachers make in my life and I in their lives. She doesn’t have that interaction with any of her high school teachers and really none of her friends. She went to the large high school of Bedford North Lawrence so I guess you could make the argument that the main factor might be the size of the student body since my beloved Paoli High School (PHS) is much smaller. But I’m not ready to dismiss it that easily because student-teacher ratios don’t actually vary that much from a small to larger school and you can really have only so many close friends no matter what the size of the school is.
This may be idealistic and sentimental but I believe my dear ‘ole PHS to be a special place. And not because it is small. This is not meant to belittle any other place, but I do think God raises up little pockets of hope with the thought to bless the world as that hope is disseminated. I think Paoli, at least in my childhood, was one of those places. I think by Providence that the right teachers, with just the right hearts to share, and the right students, with just the right hearts to be molded, were brought together in Paoli over the past couple of decades. I believe this because I see the results of it. I see many people molded by teachers like my English/journalism teacher, Ruth Uyesugi (Sugi), who are out serving humanity and making the world a more beautiful place. The world is a better place because the conditions were just perfect among teachers and students so that excellence was produced at PHS.
Although, by my theory, these pockets of hope must be occurring in other places as well, I also believe this kind of thing doesn’t happen often. At least that’s been the anecdotal evidence I’ve seen in the lives of my friends who grew up in different places. They didn’t’ experience what I experienced. And they don’t feel the support from ‘home’ that I feel. And it may not happen at Paoli forever. Sadly, an era may pass with the passing of Sugi and others. I pray that passing may be many years from now, but it may be a passing.
All of this gives me the hope that I may raising up a little pocket of hope where I am; that I may be someone who helps keep other people’s lives grounded and filled with purpose. There would be far worse things, in my opinion, than to be compared to Sugi in my old age.