I never knew Mr. Beall but I have heard a lot about him and tonight I want to honor this teacher who taught my husband a couple of things about how a republic works and a much deeper lesson about caring.
It was 1979 and in typical teenager mode, my DH thought he was fearless and immortal. Perhaps that is why one day he was goofing off after school at Maconaquah High School in Bunker Hill, Indiana. It was before swim practice which was held about 1/2 mile away and I guess, since Mark had nothing better to do and was trying to show off, my DH had a great idea and I use that term loosely. He mused, “How about if I sit on the hood of my buddy’s car and have him drive me to swim practice?”
With nary a second thought, the guy agreed and Mark jumped onto the hood of the car, grabbed tightly to back of the hood and said, “Let’s go!” Weeee eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! According to Mark’s recollection, the guy cooked along pretty fast about 40-50 mph and they quickly reached their destination. No biggie, no consequence, no nothing, Mark didn’t think anything of his antics until the next day.
That’s when Mark strode into Mr. Beall’s Government class. Everyone sat down, got ready for class and before Mr. Beall started his normal lecture, he announced he had something to read. The stubby little teacher pulled out a newspaper article and without anyone else knowing, glanced intentionally at the cocky and really cute 17 year old swimmer aka my DH who was sitting at a desk.
Mr. Beall proceeded to read a story. He was known for having a file cabinet stuffed with newspaper articles. Long before the Internet, Mr. Beall had an arsenal of facts, stories and notifications. If there was a tidbit or a snippet, Mr. Beall must have had them neatly categorized, waiting for the perfect moment to share. And a perfect moment had arrived about 24 hours ago.
And so he began to read. Most of the students were clueless as to why he was reading this particular story. But the cocky and really cute 17 year old swimmer aka my DH was keenly aware of what Mr. Beall was doing. The teacher shared with his students a newspaper article about a young man who took a joyride on the front of a car and fell off. He cracked his head on the pavement and died instantly. As Mr. Beall finished the story, he paused, looked at that kid and promptly told his class to open their books for the lesson.
That happened 31 years ago and although Mr. Beall has since passed away, his memory will live on. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that story. I can’t tell you how many times our OS have groaned as Mark begins to repeat the “Mr. Beall” story.
But you know what? I love Mr. Beall. And you know what else? This world needs more Mr. Bealls. We have a shortage of people who care and are willing to stick their necks out and risk being mocked or hated when it comes to young people. I am now on my soapbox…
Today I had a Mr. Beall moment, I think. I dropped a friend from my facebook. He was a high school student, someone that had been in one of my classes. A very handsome young man I taught several months ago but lately his language on his facebook has become so curse-laden and offensive, I felt that I had no choice but to delete him as a friend. Before I did that, however, I wrote to him and explained why I was doing this. He in turn, promptly wrote me back and said he could care less whether I was his friend or not.
I wasn’t expecting him to be devastated by losing me as a friend but I have to admit, that hurt my feelings. And that’s when good, ole, may he rest in peace, Mr. Beall popped into my mind. Mr. Beall risked popularity and ridicule to try to help someone. I tried to do the same.
I wasn’t trying to be this boy’s mama or get in his business. I was sincerely wanting to be his friend in the truest sense of the word. Even though my oldest OS thinks I should have never written to the kid and simply let him go, I thought he deserved more. Like Mr. Beall, I wanted to give that boy something to think about.
I asked Mark, “did you ever tell him thank you?” He thought for a second and said, “I don’t know. I’m not sure.” I guess that’s how my story will have to end also.
We always have lessons to learn. I am a work in progress and that’s an understatement but what would this world be like if someone didn’t speak out?
I’d love to hear your stories and recollections of people who made a difference in your life. Maybe it would help me feel better. I have no regrets about what I did, I just wish his reaction would have been different. Here’s to you, Mr. Beall. Thanks for caring enough about that cute and cocky 17 year old kid who is now my precious husband and father to my babies.