We all know them. And we all want to tell the whole world how good they are. But we also know they wouldn’t stand for it. They are too humble. Which also makes them so good. And all the more reason for us to tell the whole world about them; those “everyday good people” amongst us.
Doug Cooper is perhaps the epitome of service to our country, and to our Twin City.
Doug served our country for four years in the US Marine Corps. Then (as if that weren’t enough) he enlisted for three more years — this time serving in the US Army. After the Army, Doug then joined the forces of the Bristol Virginia Police Department. There he served us all with honor for 28 years, recently retiring.
This man literally “put his life on the line” for us all for the greater part of his life. He never made much money, of course. Doug’s rewards lie beyond anyone’s ability to count; the satisfaction of knowing one served one’s country, one’s city, one’s fellow citizens — to the fullest possible extent.
Doug’s life puts me in mind of the Bible verse, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Will Scheuer is a “man’s man.” The first time I ever laid eyes on Will he was stooped down in the hall at Van Pelt Elementary, listening intently to a young child. Will is physically powerful, but gentler than any newborn lamb you ever laid eyes on. He is the guidance counselor at Van Pelt Elementary School.
The best way to show young boys how to live like a real man (that violence is almost never the answer) is not to “tell,” but to “show.” Will shows it, day in and day out, in front of hundreds of young boys (and girls, too, yes, of course). He shows them all how the toughest of the tough handle any problem; with kindness and gentleness whenever possible. No school system can pay Will what he is worth. They’d have to rob the bank. And it still wouldn’t be enough. Besides, Will would turn down the money anyway. Yet another lesson he would show the kids.
Fredia Adkins is one of the unsung heroines of this world. If you’ve ever known a school secretary, you know they wear about three dozen hats each day. Fredia supposedly only went to high school. But I will promise you I’ve met people with doctorate degrees who aren’t as sharp and savvy and wise as her. She is all three to the max in a human being. As are all the best school secretaries. They have to be. Or they get swamped and overwhelmed in no time flat. Fredia not only survives under the intense pressure of multi-tasking, she thrives. The more she has to do it seems the better she does it all. And she does it all with sincere and honest kindness. She is one of the dearest friends I ever had in my teaching career (as no doubt many colleagues can say). More importantly, she is always the dearest of friends to every child who may ever come her way.
I messaged on Facebook a few days ago with an ex-student of mine who is now a member of a street gang in a big city far away.
I told this young man that I was proud of him for who he was. And I meant it. Very much, I meant it. (Now don’t get too alarmed, my friends. If you knew Chance, and what all he has been through in this life, I feel you’d be proud of him, too.) I have no doubt that he will find ways to do good, right where he is. Maybe even a whole lot of good. In ways you and I cannot even begin to imagine or fathom. Who knows? Chance may even do more good than you and I, in the Great Scheme of Things. He may stop a killing from taking place. He may ease racial tensions in a way that will reverberate throughout his city and into society, far beyond his gang. In ways none of us will ever know. What do we know, anyway? We often think we know so much. When we know so little.
As my grandmother was fond of saying, “God works in mysterious ways.”
Ben Talley is an inductee into the National Teachers Hall of Fame, a former Virginia Teacher of the Year, and a McGlothlin Award Winner for Teaching Excellence.