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Life Lesson's:
He was in the first third grade class I taught at Saint Mary's School in Morris, Minn.
All 34 of my students were dear to me, but Mark Eklund was one in a million.
Very neat in appearance, but had that happy-to-be-alive attitude that made even his occasional
mischievousness delightful.

Mark talked incessantly.  I had to remind him again and again that talking without permission
was not acceptable.  What impressed me so much, though, was his sincere response every time
I had to correct him for misbehaving -
"Thank you for correcting me, Sister!"
I didn't know what to make of it at first, but before long I became accustomed to hearing it
many times a day.

One morning my patience was growing thin when Mark talked once too often, and then I made
a novice-teacher's mistake.  I looked at Mark and said, "If you say one more word, I am going
to tape your mouth shut!"  It wasn't ten seconds later when Chuck blurted out, "Mark is talking
again." I hadn't asked any of the students to help me watch Mark,  but since I had stated the
punishment in front of the class, I had to act on it.  I remember the scene as if it had occurred
this morning.  I walked to my desk, very deliberately opened by drawer and took out a roll of
masking tape.  Without saying a word, I proceeded to Mark's desk, tore off two pieces of tape
and made a big X with them over his mouth.  I then returned  to the front of the room.

As I glanced at Mark to see how he was doing, he winked at me. That did  it!!  I started
laughing.  The class cheered as I walked back to Mark's desk, removed the tape, and shrugged
my shoulders.  His first words were,  "Thank you for correcting me, Sister."

At the end of the year, I was asked to teach junior-high math. The years flew by, and before I
knew it Mark was in my classroom again.  He was more  handsome than ever and just as polite.
Since he had to listen carefully to my instruction in the "new math," he did not talk as much in
ninth grade as he had in third.  One Friday, things just didn't feel right.  We had worked hard on
a new 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 in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a
space between each name.  Then I told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each
of their classmates  and write it down.  It took the remainder of the class period
to finish their assignment, and as the students left the room,  each one handed me the papers.
Charlie smiled.  Mark said, "Thank you for teaching me, Sister.   Have a good weekend."

That Saturday, I wrote down 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 his or her list.  Before long, the entire class was smiling.
"Really?"  I heard whispered.  "I never knew that meant anything to anyone!"  "I didn't know
others liked me so much."

No one ever mentioned those papers in class again.  I never knew if they discussed them after
class or with their parents, but it didn't matter.  The exercise had accomplished its purpose.
The students were happy with themselves and one another again.

That group of students moved on.  Several years later, after I returned from vacation, my parents
met me at the airport. As we were driving home, Mother asked me the usual questions
about the trip - the weather, my experiences in general.  There was a lull in the conversation.
Mother gave Dad a side-ways glance and simply says, "Dad?"  My father cleared his throat as
he usually did before something important.

"The Eklunds called last night," he began.

"Really?"  I said.  "I haven't heard from them in years.  I wonder how Mark is."

Dad responded quietly.  "Mark was killed in Vietnam," he said.

"The funeral is tomorrow, and his parents would like it if you could attend."

To this day I can still point to the exact spot on I-494 where Dad told me about Mark.  I had
never seen a serviceman in a military coffin before.   Mark looked so handsome, so mature.
All I could think at that moment was, Mark I would give all the masking tape in the world if
only you would talk  to me.  The church was packed with Mark's friends.  Chuck's sister sang
"The Battle Hymn of the Republic."  Why did it have to rain on the day of the funeral?

It was difficult enough at the graveside.  The pastor said the usual prayers, and the bugler played
taps.   One by one those who loved Mark took a last walk by the coffin and sprinkled it with
holy water.  I was the last one to bless the coffin.  As I stood there, one of the soldiers who
acted as pallbearer came up to me.

"Were you Mark's math teacher?" he asked. I nodded as I continued to stare at the coffin.

"Mark talked about you a lot," he said.

After the funeral, most of Mark's former classmates headed to Chuck's farmhouse for lunch.
Mark's mother and father were there, obviously waiting for me.  "We want to show you
something," his father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket.  "They found this on Mark
when he was killed.   We thought you might recognize it."

Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had
obviously been taped, folded and prefolded many 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, Mark treasured it."

Mark's classmates started to gather around us.   Charlie smiled rather sheepishly and said,
"I still have my list. It's in the top drawer of my desk at home."

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," Vicki said without
batting an eyelash.  "I think we all saved our lists."

That's when I finally sat down and cried.  I cried for Mark and for all his friends who would
never see him again.

Written by:  Helen P. Mrosla
Could you say "thank you" to someone who corrects you?
We often tend to forget the importance of showing our affections and love.
Sometimes  the smallest of things, could  mean the most to  another.
We forget that life will end one day.   And we don't know when that one day will be.
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