About a month or so ago, I wrote an article in praise of my sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Ray, partly because I was reminiscing about him with my daughter, explaining how he played a vital father-figure-esque role in my childhood, but also partly because of a case of mistaken identity. At my daughter’s behest, I Googled Mr. Ray and found what I thought was his obituary, so I did what any of his former students would have done, considering his profound influence on our lives: I eulogized him on my site.
Not more than a few hours later, I received a message from Mr. Ray, correcting my blunder and noting that it was his brother’s obituary that I found. See, his brother was also a teacher in the same city where I grew up, but also looked remarkably like the man I thought I remembered, so the mistake was understandable. Nevertheless, I retracted the article immediately and rewrote it, but that was only the beginning of the story.
Today, I had the chance to spend some time with Mr. Ray, who still teaches elementary school to this day. We met at a local coffee shop and bakery, settled into a dark corner on a couch in the back of the house, and lobbed stories back and forth in an effort to catch-up. We swapped tales about life since our last meeting, nearly 30 years ago, and after that, we fished out our old stories from the dark recesses of our minds, dusted them off, and reminisced about playing battle ball, butts up, and ruthlessly difficult research-based trivia games.
As I reflect on the experience even now, I feel as though the meeting may have been a surreal dream, because it is almost unbelievable that, what started as a leisurely conversation with my daughter on our way to school about a month ago ended with a reunion among mentor and mentee, where I was able to introduce my children to the man from whom many of their lessons in morality, sportsmanship, and character originated.
We truly live in an amazing time, in which we have the powerful potential to connect with one another by way of the very tools that also threaten to separate us. Let my story be a reminder that social media is a tool, just like a hammer. As the old saying goes, to the little boy with a hammer, everything looks like a nail, but to the mindful carpenter, the hammer can be used to create beauty.
If we are mindful of how we wield this tool, we may allow it fill our lives with the same grace and wonder as this stranger-than-fiction story provided me.
To Mr. Ray, thank you for allowing me to tell you a little bit about how much you meant to me, while I still had the chance.