Little Things Mean a Lot

Friday, July 13, 2012

His name was Mr. Lowry. He had red hair, cut in the typical flat-top style of the 1960s. The severe haircut could not hide his kind nature or his twinkling blue eyes. Nevertheless, I was a little afraid of him. I was a second grader and he was the principal of Ligonier Elementary School. Even our teachers, who seemed fearless to me, were deferential to him. He was a Very Important Person.

I had been struggling with math. My teacher spent extra time working with me, and had assigned extra work for me to take home. My mother made sure I got it done. Today the teacher was going to pass back our most recent math test.

Suddenly Mr. Lowry entered the room, with a small smile on his face. My teacher smiled back at him. It was as though they shared a delightful secret. He joined my teacher at the front of the room and took one of the test papers from her. I realized his blue eyes were twinkling at…me!

“Mary, would you come to the front of the class, please?” The other students began to giggle. I was quiet and awkward, sometimes the subject of cruel jokes. Mr. Lowry shot the class a look that silenced them.

As I stepped to the front of the classroom, Mr. Lowry spoke. “Mary has been working really hard on her math problems. She’s been doing extra work and giving her best. I wanted to come here today, Mary, to give you your last test because your grade improved a LOT!”

He showed the class my test paper. At the top was a big red “A.”

Mr. Lowry and my teacher began to clap, and the other students joined them. And then, the principal of Ligonier Elementary School, a Very Important Person, leaned down and hugged me. He whispered, “I am so proud of you.”

I beamed all the way back to my seat. The rest of the day I was in a delighted haze.

I was seven years old when Mr. Lowry hugged me and told me he was proud of me. That was almost fifty years ago, and I can remember it like it happened yesterday. I’m sure he was a busy man. There always seemed to be a line of students and teachers waiting to see him. No doubt he had a ton of paperwork waiting and phone calls to return to other Very Important People. But Mr. Lowry took five minutes to encourage a child, and it has made a huge difference in my life to this very day.

July is national “Make a Difference to Children” Month. It’s a time to remember the adults who made a difference for us when we were young. It’s also a time to consider what we can do to make a difference for the children around us. Sometimes even little things can make a big impact. Here are some ideas:

• Commit to do one special thing with a child in July—make some kind of positive difference for that child.

• Support an organization that focuses on children—there are many to choose from.

• Communicate with your elected leaders to make children a priority in policy and budget issues they address.

I doubt that Mr. Lowry felt like a Very Important Person. But he was to my classmates and me. You are probably a Very Important Person to the children around you. This month—and every month—take some time to make a difference.

Contributed by Mary Armstrong-Smith, PCAIN Community Partners Director

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