Tuesday, April 8, 2014

No Escape!



When I officially retired from teaching in May 2011, I truly thought I was done with that portion of my life.  I knew I would retain many wonderful memories, and that I would try to keep in touch with lots of people that I met along the way.  But I always thought that I was "done" with my former students.

I didn't WANT to be done...I just thought that I was.  I knew I would occasionally run into a few of them at restaurants, movies, and even on the street - as I had for 30 years.  My family is used to this happening, but they always laugh when it does.  I admit it gives me a kick to think those kids I taught will still come anywhere near me.

But I really did think I was done.  WRONG!

Since I began working in ministry, here is what has happened:

  • I have done two funerals for the two maternal grandparents of a former student.
  • I did another funeral for the grandmother of a different former student.
  • When I was ordained and installed as the pastor for Heritage Presbyterian Church, two of my former students were there: one from a class I taught in 1986, and one from my last class in 2011.
  • I counseled a family friend of a former student.  The former student thought I could help.  I wonder if I did...
  • I invited a former student to preach to our church on "Youth Sunday" in October 2013.  (By the way, he was fantastic!)
  • I wrote college letters of recommendation to several former students who then got into college.  No, I don't think I had much to do with that.
  • I grieved at the senseless death of one fine young man who died in a shoot-out in a Houston night club.  He was shot in the back by a young man who was angry at him for some stupid reason.  My former student never saw it coming.
  • I grieved at the senseless death of another fine young man who was riding in a car with some friends, and someone took a random shot at their car.  The bullet pierced the back windshield, the front seat, and hit my former student in the back, killing him.
  • I officiated at the wedding of a former student.  LOVED doing that!

And the list will probably go on and on.

All of these things remind me of a few things:

1.  With me, teaching was always personal.  Although my students went on from my class to other classes and other teachers each and every year, I always considered them to be "mine" forever.  Selfish, foolish, but true.
2.  Their tragedies hurt me deeply.  Their triumphs brought a lump of pride to my throat.
3.  Triumph or tragedy, I am with them in spirit, if not in person.
4.  I guess this will go on for many years, possibly forever.

I think I will always be "Mr. Plunkett" to lots of people.  I am currently "Pastor Mark" to lots of other people.  I wonder how much overlap there will be between the two groups.

PS - On a weekly basis, I still get to work with two of my favorite former students: my son and my daughter.  I was their computer lab teacher for 5 years each.  To them, I'm just "Dad."

"Do not forsake your friend or a friend of your family." Proverbs 27:10a


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