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Madeline
By Jean S Roetter
Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rated "G" by the Author.

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Recent stories by Jean S Roetter
· Pure Gold
· The Boathouse
           >> View all 3


What happens when you respect yourself

 MADELINE

I’m in my moment now, Madeline thought as she looked out at the audience.  People were packed in like economy seat travelers in the rows in front of her.  Every face was looking at her, their eyes alive with interest and expectation.  They seemed oblivious to the squashed discomfort that the narrow seating necessitated.  She, Madeline, stood on the edge of the stage, large, imposing figure, full bosom, ample hips, straight carriage, a presence which could carry off all the size encased, not in customary black, but in a bright blue.  She was not going to hide or diminish herself by dulling the vision.  This was her moment.  This was why she had traveled so far.  This was her chance to tell them what they needed to do and how they could do it.

            She moved slightly as the moderator got going on her introduction.  She listened to the description of herself and her circumstances.  Yes, it was coming out right.  Thank heavens, she thought, that was important, that they know where she came from and how she got to where she was.  She wanted them to know that they could do it, too.  That it wasn’t a magic pill that brought her to this prestigious but overcrowded hall; that it was her energy, it was drive, it was guts, it was her work.

            Yes, this was her crowd and she knew that the minute she had stood up in front of them.  The introduction finally over, Madeline walked slowly to the podium as the crowd clapped their delight before suddenly becoming silent.

            Madeline took her time before speaking.  She looked out at them, smiled and then very quietly but audibly said, “I am so grateful that we have come together tonight.  I almost feel that everything in my life has been leading to this moment, and this moment could not happen without you because this is for you.  Tonight we are not a speaker and an audience.  We are a circle of friends.  We each have a gift to give and a gift to receive.  Your gift to me,” and here Madeline paused before continuing “is your mind and your attention.  My gift to you is the story of my life, how I found my way out of crushing rural poverty and misery and found a way to my present professional blooming and prosperity.  I was once pretty much where you are and because I was, I know more about your world than you might suspect.  I know the road blocks that live in your mind.  I know how easy it is to feel that your poverty is really someone else’s fault; maybe that rich fat cat down the street who doesn’t share what he’s got.  I know how easy it is to blame the other guy.”  

The crowd was giving her full attention.  “You see, my mother was on welfare just as you all are and she always played the role of the victim.  She didn’t play the role, actually she did more than just play it, she lived it.  She felt the world owed her something and how busily she directed her energy towards finding fault with the system and those who had made it.  I grew up believing her ongoing whine about how wretched things were.  It was always up to the other guy to help us.  Then one day – and it was my lucky day - Mrs. Smith, my 5th grade teacher, a long, bony woman with the biggest grey eyes I’ve ever seen, changed my life.  She looked at me in class and asked me to stay behind at the end of the day.  I was a little reluctant, scared, wondering what I had done wrong.  Was she going to get me for something? 

            Well, I stayed anyway and she said to me then, “Why do you do C work when you could do A work?  Why are you doing as little as possible instead of as much as possible to master whatever we are studying in class?  Are you lazy, Madeline?  You don’t seem lazy when you are talking to your friends or are out on the playground.  Tell me, what happens in the classroom?”

            Madeline stood silent at the end of her recollection of Mrs. Smith’s question.  Then she began again.  “She looked at me so intently with those penetrating gray eyes that I was almost mesmerized and answered without any cover up or defense.  I told her I just had no answer and that it really didn’t matter to anyone what I did.  I’ll never forget her passionate response, her clear voice saying, ‘Does not matter to anyone or makes no difference to anyone?  Are you no one, Madeline?  Am I not looking at a vigorous, lively face of a person with brains and dignity?  Are you so unimportant to yourself that you bring only a small part of your ability to the daily play?  Oh, Madeline, never, ever think or say for a minute that what you do doesn’t matter!  Everything you do matters and when you do C work when you are able to do A work, you are letting down your very best friend in the whole world, yourself.’”

            Madeline took on her own voice and began delivering again.  “Now, I had never thought of myself in this light.  I’d certainly never thought it mattered how I did my work.  But Mrs. Smith - with her passionate protest over my non-performance - affected me in two ways; I felt challenged as I had never been challenged to investigate her claim that I could turn my C work into A work.  And, just as important, I felt within myself a stirring of what now could be called “self respect.”  She verbally shook me into new thinking.  Someone was saying, yes, you can do better if you try instead of always whining poor you, it’s always like this, things never get any better.’”

            “Oh what a memorable encounter and a memorable teacher she was.  Of course, I didn’t turn around overnight but it started me thinking.  Much more importantly, it started me trying.  It started me working to make more from each class challenge.  Instead of doing the least I could do, I started doing the best I could do and each C that turned into an A made me happy and more self-confident.  I was no longer thinking about the things I didn’t have or didn’t like because I was too busy working on doing better in every corner of my life.”

            “Turning a C in math into an A not only made me feel good, it made my mother feel good.  Something positive was happening and it all started when I started doing the very best I could in every corner of life.  What a difference I began making in the classroom with my classmates but that was because I took very good care of my best friend, myself.  I tried my darndest never to let me down and that meant that I was a better friend to lots of other kids who had given up.  When I won a full scholarship to our state college, I was really on my way.  And as it worked out, my new path led not just to college but, after graduation, to work in a publishing house and finally to writing itself. You must have loved my books or you wouldn’t have chosen me to be your guest speaker for this rally.  But, as you can see, I’m not talking about my books tonight; I’m here to bestow the greatest gift that I could give you, an introduction to your best friend, yourself.  You have it in you.  If you seize it, it will give you the ability to improve your lot dramatically.  Never forget we are living in the land of opportunity.  It’s up to you to decide what you want and then to go get it.”  She paused and then grinned widely, concluding with “The first time you turn a C into an A, write to me.  We will celebrate together.”MADELINE

I’m in my moment now, Madeline thought as she looked out at the audience.  People were packed in like economy seat travelers in the rows in front of her.  Every face was looking at her, their eyes alive with interest and expectation.  They seemed oblivious to the squashed discomfort that the narrow seating necessitated.  She, Madeline, stood on the edge of the stage, large, imposing figure, full bosom, ample hips, straight carriage, a presence which could carry off all the size encased, not in customary black, but in a bright blue.  She was not going to hide or diminish herself by dulling the vision.  This was her moment.  This was why she had traveled so far.  This was her chance to tell them what they needed to do and how they could do it.

            She moved slightly as the moderator got going on her introduction.  She listened to the description of herself and her circumstances.  Yes, it was coming out right.  Thank heavens, she thought, that was important, that they know where she came from and how she got to where she was.  She wanted them to know that they could do it, too.  That it wasn’t a magic pill that brought her to this prestigious but overcrowded hall; that it was her energy, it was drive, it was guts, it was her work.

            Yes, this was her crowd and she knew that the minute she had stood up in front of them.  The introduction finally over, Madeline walked slowly to the podium as the crowd clapped their delight before suddenly becoming silent.

            Madeline took her time before speaking.  She looked out at them, smiled and then very quietly but audibly said, “I am so grateful that we have come together tonight.  I almost feel that everything in my life has been leading to this moment, and this moment could not happen without you because this is for you.  Tonight we are not a speaker and an audience.  We are a circle of friends.  We each have a gift to give and a gift to receive.  Your gift to me,” and here Madeline paused before continuing “is your mind and your attention.  My gift to you is the story of my life, how I found my way out of crushing rural poverty and misery and found a way to my present professional blooming and prosperity.  I was once pretty much where you are and because I was, I know more about your world than you might suspect.  I know the road blocks that live in your mind.  I know how easy it is to feel that your poverty is really someone else’s fault; maybe that rich fat cat down the street who doesn’t share what he’s got.  I know how easy it is to blame the other guy.”  

The crowd was giving her full attention.  “You see, my mother was on welfare just as you all are and she always played the role of the victim.  She didn’t play the role, actually she did more than just play it, she lived it.  She felt the world owed her something and how busily she directed her energy towards finding fault with the system and those who had made it.  I grew up believing her ongoing whine about how wretched things were.  It was always up to the other guy to help us.  Then one day – and it was my lucky day - Mrs. Smith, my 5th grade teacher, a long, bony woman with the biggest grey eyes I’ve ever seen, changed my life.  She looked at me in class and asked me to stay behind at the end of the day.  I was a little reluctant, scared, wondering what I had done wrong.  Was she going to get me for something? 

            Well, I stayed anyway and she said to me then, “Why do you do C work when you could do A work?  Why are you doing as little as possible instead of as much as possible to master whatever we are studying in class?  Are you lazy, Madeline?  You don’t seem lazy when you are talking to your friends or are out on the playground.  Tell me, what happens in the classroom?”

            Madeline stood silent at the end of her recollection of Mrs. Smith’s question.  Then she began again.  “She looked at me so intently with those penetrating gray eyes that I was almost mesmerized and answered without any cover up or defense.  I told her I just had no answer and that it really didn’t matter to anyone what I did.  I’ll never forget her passionate response, her clear voice saying, ‘Does not matter to anyone or makes no difference to anyone?  Are you no one, Madeline?  Am I not looking at a vigorous, lively face of a person with brains and dignity?  Are you so unimportant to yourself that you bring only a small part of your ability to the daily play?  Oh, Madeline, never, ever think or say for a minute that what you do doesn’t matter!  Everything you do matters and when you do C work when you are able to do A work, you are letting down your very best friend in the whole world, yourself.’”

            Madeline took on her own voice and began delivering again.  “Now, I had never thought of myself in this light.  I’d certainly never thought it mattered how I did my work.  But Mrs. Smith - with her passionate protest over my non-performance - affected me in two ways; I felt challenged as I had never been challenged to investigate her claim that I could turn my C work into A work.  And, just as important, I felt within myself a stirring of what now could be called “self respect.”  She verbally shook me into new thinking.  Someone was saying, yes, you can do better if you try instead of always whining poor you, it’s always like this, things never get any better.’”

            “Oh what a memorable encounter and a memorable teacher she was.  Of course, I didn’t turn around overnight but it started me thinking.  Much more importantly, it started me trying.  It started me working to make more from each class challenge.  Instead of doing the least I could do, I started doing the best I could do and each C that turned into an A made me happy and more self-confident.  I was no longer thinking about the things I didn’t have or didn’t like because I was too busy working on doing better in every corner of my life.”

            “Turning a C in math into an A not only made me feel good, it made my mother feel good.  Something positive was happening and it all started when I started doing the very best I could in every corner of life.  What a difference I began making in the classroom with my classmates but that was because I took very good care of my best friend, myself.  I tried my darndest never to let me down and that meant that I was a better friend to lots of other kids who had given up.  When I won a full scholarship to our state college, I was really on my way.  And as it worked out, my new path led not just to college but, after graduation, to work in a publishing house and finally to writing itself. You must have loved my books or you wouldn’t have chosen me to be your guest speaker for this rally.  But, as you can see, I’m not talking about my books tonight; I’m here to bestow the greatest gift that I could give you, an introduction to your best friend, yourself.  You have it in you.  If you seize it, it will give you the ability to improve your lot dramatically.  Never forget we are living in the land of opportunity.  It’s up to you to decide what you want and then to go get it.”  She paused and then grinned widely, concluding with “The first time you turn a C into an A, write to me.  We will celebrate together.”MADELINE

I’m in my moment now, Madeline thought as she looked out at the audience.  People were packed in like economy seat travelers in the rows in front of her.  Every face was looking at her, their eyes alive with interest and expectation.  They seemed oblivious to the squashed discomfort that the narrow seating necessitated.  She, Madeline, stood on the edge of the stage, large, imposing figure, full bosom, ample hips, straight carriage, a presence which could carry off all the size encased, not in customary black, but in a bright blue.  She was not going to hide or diminish herself by dulling the vision.  This was her moment.  This was why she had traveled so far.  This was her chance to tell them what they needed to do and how they could do it.

            She moved slightly as the moderator got going on her introduction.  She listened to the description of herself and her circumstances.  Yes, it was coming out right.  Thank heavens, she thought, that was important, that they know where she came from and how she got to where she was.  She wanted them to know that they could do it, too.  That it wasn’t a magic pill that brought her to this prestigious but overcrowded hall; that it was her energy, it was drive, it was guts, it was her work.

            Yes, this was her crowd and she knew that the minute she had stood up in front of them.  The introduction finally over, Madeline walked slowly to the podium as the crowd clapped their delight before suddenly becoming silent.

            Madeline took her time before speaking.  She looked out at them, smiled and then very quietly but audibly said, “I am so grateful that we have come together tonight.  I almost feel that everything in my life has been leading to this moment, and this moment could not happen without you because this is for you.  Tonight we are not a speaker and an audience.  We are a circle of friends.  We each have a gift to give and a gift to receive.  Your gift to me,” and here Madeline paused before continuing “is your mind and your attention.  My gift to you is the story of my life, how I found my way out of crushing rural poverty and misery and found a way to my present professional blooming and prosperity.  I was once pretty much where you are and because I was, I know more about your world than you might suspect.  I know the road blocks that live in your mind.  I know how easy it is to feel that your poverty is really someone else’s fault; maybe that rich fat cat down the street who doesn’t share what he’s got.  I know how easy it is to blame the other guy.”  

The crowd was giving her full attention.  “You see, my mother was on welfare just as you all are and she always played the role of the victim.  She didn’t play the role, actually she did more than just play it, she lived it.  She felt the world owed her something and how busily she directed her energy towards finding fault with the system and those who had made it.  I grew up believing her ongoing whine about how wretched things were.  It was always up to the other guy to help us.  Then one day – and it was my lucky day - Mrs. Smith, my 5th grade teacher, a long, bony woman with the biggest grey eyes I’ve ever seen, changed my life.  She looked at me in class and asked me to stay behind at the end of the day.  I was a little reluctant, scared, wondering what I had done wrong.  Was she going to get me for something? 

            Well, I stayed anyway and she said to me then, “Why do you do C work when you could do A work?  Why are you doing as little as possible instead of as much as possible to master whatever we are studying in class?  Are you lazy, Madeline?  You don’t seem lazy when you are talking to your friends or are out on the playground.  Tell me, what happens in the classroom?”

            Madeline stood silent at the end of her recollection of Mrs. Smith’s question.  Then she began again.  “She looked at me so intently with those penetrating gray eyes that I was almost mesmerized and answered without any cover up or defense.  I told her I just had no answer and that it really didn’t matter to anyone what I did.  I’ll never forget her passionate response, her clear voice saying, ‘Does not matter to anyone or makes no difference to anyone?  Are you no one, Madeline?  Am I not looking at a vigorous, lively face of a person with brains and dignity?  Are you so unimportant to yourself that you bring only a small part of your ability to the daily play?  Oh, Madeline, never, ever think or say for a minute that what you do doesn’t matter!  Everything you do matters and when you do C work when you are able to do A work, you are letting down your very best friend in the whole world, yourself.’”

            Madeline took on her own voice and began delivering again.  “Now, I had never thought of myself in this light.  I’d certainly never thought it mattered how I did my work.  But Mrs. Smith - with her passionate protest over my non-performance - affected me in two ways; I felt challenged as I had never been challenged to investigate her claim that I could turn my C work into A work.  And, just as important, I felt within myself a stirring of what now could be called “self respect.”  She verbally shook me into new thinking.  Someone was saying, yes, you can do better if you try instead of always whining poor you, it’s always like this, things never get any better.’”

            “Oh what a memorable encounter and a memorable teacher she was.  Of course, I didn’t turn around overnight but it started me thinking.  Much more importantly, it started me trying.  It started me working to make more from each class challenge.  Instead of doing the least I could do, I started doing the best I could do and each C that turned into an A made me happy and more self-confident.  I was no longer thinking about the things I didn’t have or didn’t like because I was too busy working on doing better in every corner of my life.”

            “Turning a C in math into an A not only made me feel good, it made my mother feel good.  Something positive was happening and it all started when I started doing the very best I could in every corner of life.  What a difference I began making in the classroom with my classmates but that was because I took very good care of my best friend, myself.  I tried my darndest never to let me down and that meant that I was a better friend to lots of other kids who had given up.  When I won a full scholarship to our state college, I was really on my way.  And as it worked out, my new path led not just to college but, after graduation, to work in a publishing house and finally to writing itself. You must have loved my books or you wouldn’t have chosen me to be your guest speaker for this rally.  But, as you can see, I’m not talking about my books tonight; I’m here to bestow the greatest gift that I could give you, an introduction to your best friend, yourself.  You have it in you.  If you seize it, it will give you the ability to improve your lot dramatically.  Never forget we are living in the land of opportunity.  It’s up to you to decide what you want and then to go get it.”  She paused and then grinned widely, concluding with “The first time you turn a C into an A, write to me.  We will celebrate together.”MADELINE

I’m in my moment now, Madeline thought as she looked out at the audience.  People were packed in like economy seat travelers in the rows in front of her.  Every face was looking at her, their eyes alive with interest and expectation.  They seemed oblivious to the squashed discomfort that the narrow seating necessitated.  She, Madeline, stood on the edge of the stage, large, imposing figure, full bosom, ample hips, straight carriage, a presence which could carry off all the size encased, not in customary black, but in a bright blue.  She was not going to hide or diminish herself by dulling the vision.  This was her moment.  This was why she had traveled so far.  This was her chance to tell them what they needed to do and how they could do it.

            She moved slightly as the moderator got going on her introduction.  She listened to the description of herself and her circumstances.  Yes, it was coming out right.  Thank heavens, she thought, that was important, that they know where she came from and how she got to where she was.  She wanted them to know that they could do it, too.  That it wasn’t a magic pill that brought her to this prestigious but overcrowded hall; that it was her energy, it was drive, it was guts, it was her work.

            Yes, this was her crowd and she knew that the minute she had stood up in front of them.  The introduction finally over, Madeline walked slowly to the podium as the crowd clapped their delight before suddenly becoming silent.

            Madeline took her time before speaking.  She looked out at them, smiled and then very quietly but audibly said, “I am so grateful that we have come together tonight.  I almost feel that everything in my life has been leading to this moment, and this moment could not happen without you because this is for you.  Tonight we are not a speaker and an audience.  We are a circle of friends.  We each have a gift to give and a gift to receive.  Your gift to me,” and here Madeline paused before continuing “is your mind and your attention.  My gift to you is the story of my life, how I found my way out of crushing rural poverty and misery and found a way to my present professional blooming and prosperity.  I was once pretty much where you are and because I was, I know more about your world than you might suspect.  I know the road blocks that live in your mind.  I know how easy it is to feel that your poverty is really someone else’s fault; maybe that rich fat cat down the street who doesn’t share what he’s got.  I know how easy it is to blame the other guy.”  

The crowd was giving her full attention.  “You see, my mother was on welfare just as you all are and she always played the role of the victim.  She didn’t play the role, actually she did more than just play it, she lived it.  She felt the world owed her something and how busily she directed her energy towards finding fault with the system and those who had made it.  I grew up believing her ongoing whine about how wretched things were.  It was always up to the other guy to help us.  Then one day – and it was my lucky day - Mrs. Smith, my 5th grade teacher, a long, bony woman with the biggest grey eyes I’ve ever seen, changed my life.  She looked at me in class and asked me to stay behind at the end of the day.  I was a little reluctant, scared, wondering what I had done wrong.  Was she going to get me for something? 

            Well, I stayed anyway and she said to me then, “Why do you do C work when you could do A work?  Why are you doing as little as possible instead of as much as possible to master whatever we are studying in class?  Are you lazy, Madeline?  You don’t seem lazy when you are talking to your friends or are out on the playground.  Tell me, what happens in the classroom?”

            Madeline stood silent at the end of her recollection of Mrs. Smith’s question.  Then she began again.  “She looked at me so intently with those penetrating gray eyes that I was almost mesmerized and answered without any cover up or defense.  I told her I just had no answer and that it really didn’t matter to anyone what I did.  I’ll never forget her passionate response, her clear voice saying, ‘Does not matter to anyone or makes no difference to anyone?  Are you no one, Madeline?  Am I not looking at a vigorous, lively face of a person with brains and dignity?  Are you so unimportant to yourself that you bring only a small part of your ability to the daily play?  Oh, Madeline, never, ever think or say for a minute that what you do doesn’t matter!  Everything you do matters and when you do C work when you are able to do A work, you are letting down your very best friend in the whole world, yourself.’”

            Madeline took on her own voice and began delivering again.  “Now, I had never thought of myself in this light.  I’d certainly never thought it mattered how I did my work.  But Mrs. Smith - with her passionate protest over my non-performance - affected me in two ways; I felt challenged as I had never been challenged to investigate her claim that I could turn my C work into A work.  And, just as important, I felt within myself a stirring of what now could be called “self respect.”  She verbally shook me into new thinking.  Someone was saying, yes, you can do better if you try instead of always whining poor you, it’s always like this, things never get any better.’”

            “Oh what a memorable encounter and a memorable teacher she was.  Of course, I didn’t turn around overnight but it started me thinking.  Much more importantly, it started me trying.  It started me working to make more from each class challenge.  Instead of doing the least I could do, I started doing the best I could do and each C that turned into an A made me happy and more self-confident.  I was no longer thinking about the things I didn’t have or didn’t like because I was too busy working on doing better in every corner of my life.”

            “Turning a C in math into an A not only made me feel good, it made my mother feel good.  Something positive was happening and it all started when I started doing the very best I could in every corner of life.  What a difference I began making in the classroom with my classmates but that was because I took very good care of my best friend, myself.  I tried my darndest never to let me down and that meant that I was a better friend to lots of other kids who had given up.  When I won a full scholarship to our state college, I was really on my way.  And as it worked out, my new path led not just to college but, after graduation, to work in a publishing house and finally to writing itself. You must have loved my books or you wouldn’t have chosen me to be your guest speaker for this rally.  But, as you can see, I’m not talking about my books tonight; I’m here to bestow the greatest gift that I could give you, an introduction to your best friend, yourself.  You have it in you.  If you seize it, it will give you the ability to improve your lot dramatically.  Never forget we are living in the land of opportunity.  It’s up to you to decide what you want and then to go get it.”  She paused and then grinned widely, concluding with “The first time you turn a C into an A, write to me.  We will celebrate together.”MADELINE

I’m in my moment now, Madeline thought as she looked out at the audience.  People were packed in like economy seat travelers in the rows in front of her.  Every face was looking at her, their eyes alive with interest and expectation.  They seemed oblivious to the squashed discomfort that the narrow seating necessitated.  She, Madeline, stood on the edge of the stage, large, imposing figure, full bosom, ample hips, straight carriage, a presence which could carry off all the size encased, not in customary black, but in a bright blue.  She was not going to hide or diminish herself by dulling the vision.  This was her moment.  This was why she had traveled so far.  This was her chance to tell them what they needed to do and how they could do it.

            She moved slightly as the moderator got going on her introduction.  She listened to the description of herself and her circumstances.  Yes, it was coming out right.  Thank heavens, she thought, that was important, that they know where she came from and how she got to where she was.  She wanted them to know that they could do it, too.  That it wasn’t a magic pill that brought her to this prestigious but overcrowded hall; that it was her energy, it was drive, it was guts, it was her work.

            Yes, this was her crowd and she knew that the minute she had stood up in front of them.  The introduction finally over, Madeline walked slowly to the podium as the crowd clapped their delight before suddenly becoming silent.

            Madeline took her time before speaking.  She looked out at them, smiled and then very quietly but audibly said, “I am so grateful that we have come together tonight.  I almost feel that everything in my life has been leading to this moment, and this moment could not happen without you because this is for you.  Tonight we are not a speaker and an audience.  We are a circle of friends.  We each have a gift to give and a gift to receive.  Your gift to me,” and here Madeline paused before continuing “is your mind and your attention.  My gift to you is the story of my life, how I found my way out of crushing rural poverty and misery and found a way to my present professional blooming and prosperity.  I was once pretty much where you are and because I was, I know more about your world than you might suspect.  I know the road blocks that live in your mind.  I know how easy it is to feel that your poverty is really someone else’s fault; maybe that rich fat cat down the street who doesn’t share what he’s got.  I know how easy it is to blame the other guy.”  

The crowd was giving her full attention.  “You see, my mother was on welfare just as you all are and she always played the role of the victim.  She didn’t play the role, actually she did more than just play it, she lived it.  She felt the world owed her something and how busily she directed her energy towards finding fault with the system and those who had made it.  I grew up believing her ongoing whine about how wretched things were.  It was always up to the other guy to help us.  Then one day – and it was my lucky day - Mrs. Smith, my 5th grade teacher, a long, bony woman with the biggest grey eyes I’ve ever seen, changed my life.  She looked at me in class and asked me to stay behind at the end of the day.  I was a little reluctant, scared, wondering what I had done wrong.  Was she going to get me for something? 

            Well, I stayed anyway and she said to me then, “Why do you do C work when you could do A work?  Why are you doing as little as possible instead of as much as possible to master whatever we are studying in class?  Are you lazy, Madeline?  You don’t seem lazy when you are talking to your friends or are out on the playground.  Tell me, what happens in the classroom?”

            Madeline stood silent at the end of her recollection of Mrs. Smith’s question.  Then she began again.  “She looked at me so intently with those penetrating gray eyes that I was almost mesmerized and answered without any cover up or defense.  I told her I just had no answer and that it really didn’t matter to anyone what I did.  I’ll never forget her passionate response, her clear voice saying, ‘Does not matter to anyone or makes no difference to anyone?  Are you no one, Madeline?  Am I not looking at a vigorous, lively face of a person with brains and dignity?  Are you so unimportant to yourself that you bring only a small part of your ability to the daily play?  Oh, Madeline, never, ever think or say for a minute that what you do doesn’t matter!  Everything you do matters and when you do C work when you are able to do A work, you are letting down your very best friend in the whole world, yourself.’”

            Madeline took on her own voice and began delivering again.  “Now, I had never thought of myself in this light.  I’d certainly never thought it mattered how I did my work.  But Mrs. Smith - with her passionate protest over my non-performance - affected me in two ways; I felt challenged as I had never been challenged to investigate her claim that I could turn my C work into A work.  And, just as important, I felt within myself a stirring of what now could be called “self respect.”  She verbally shook me into new thinking.  Someone was saying, yes, you can do better if you try instead of always whining poor you, it’s always like this, things never get any better.’”

            “Oh what a memorable encounter and a memorable teacher she was.  Of course, I didn’t turn around overnight but it started me thinking.  Much more importantly, it started me trying.  It started me working to make more from each class challenge.  Instead of doing the least I could do, I started doing the best I could do and each C that turned into an A made me happy and more self-confident.  I was no longer thinking about the things I didn’t have or didn’t like because I was too busy working on doing better in every corner of my life.”

            “Turning a C in math into an A not only made me feel good, it made my mother feel good.  Something positive was happening and it all started when I started doing the very best I could in every corner of life.  What a difference I began making in the classroom with my classmates but that was because I took very good care of my best friend, myself.  I tried my darndest never to let me down and that meant that I was a better friend to lots of other kids who had given up.  When I won a full scholarship to our state college, I was really on my way.  And as it worked out, my new path led not just to college but, after graduation, to work in a publishing house and finally to writing itself. You must have loved my books or you wouldn’t have chosen me to be your guest speaker for this rally.  But, as you can see, I’m not talking about my books tonight; I’m here to bestow the greatest gift that I could give you, an introduction to your best friend, yourself.  You have it in you.  If you seize it, it will give you the ability to improve your lot dramatically.  Never forget we are living in the land of opportunity.  It’s up to you to decide what you want and then to go get it.”  She paused and then grinned widely, concluding with “The first time you turn a C into an A, write to me.  We will celebrate together.”MADELINE

I’m in my moment now, Madeline thought as she looked out at the audience.  People were packed in like economy seat travelers in the rows in front of her.  Every face was looking at her, their eyes alive with interest and expectation.  They seemed oblivious to the squashed discomfort that the narrow seating necessitated.  She, Madeline, stood on the edge of the stage, large, imposing figure, full bosom, ample hips, straight carriage, a presence which could carry off all the size encased, not in customary black, but in a bright blue.  She was not going to hide or diminish herself by dulling the vision.  This was her moment.  This was why she had traveled so far.  This was her chance to tell them what they needed to do and how they could do it.

            She moved slightly as the moderator got going on her introduction.  She listened to the description of herself and her circumstances.  Yes, it was coming out right.  Thank heavens, she thought, that was important, that they know where she came from and how she got to where she was.  She wanted them to know that they could do it, too.  That it wasn’t a magic pill that brought her to this prestigious but overcrowded hall; that it was her energy, it was drive, it was guts, it was her work.

            Yes, this was her crowd and she knew that the minute she had stood up in front of them.  The introduction finally over, Madeline walked slowly to the podium as the crowd clapped their delight before suddenly becoming silent.

            Madeline took her time before speaking.  She looked out at them, smiled and then very quietly but audibly said, “I am so grateful that we have come together tonight.  I almost feel that everything in my life has been leading to this moment, and this moment could not happen without you because this is for you.  Tonight we are not a speaker and an audience.  We are a circle of friends.  We each have a gift to give and a gift to receive.  Your gift to me,” and here Madeline paused before continuing “is your mind and your attention.  My gift to you is the story of my life, how I found my way out of crushing rural poverty and misery and found a way to my present professional blooming and prosperity.  I was once pretty much where you are and because I was, I know more about your world than you might suspect.  I know the road blocks that live in your mind.  I know how easy it is to feel that your poverty is really someone else’s fault; maybe that rich fat cat down the street who doesn’t share what he’s got.  I know how easy it is to blame the other guy.”  

The crowd was giving her full attention.  “You see, my mother was on welfare just as you all are and she always played the role of the victim.  She didn’t play the role, actually she did more than just play it, she lived it.  She felt the world owed her something and how busily she directed her energy towards finding fault with the system and those who had made it.  I grew up believing her ongoing whine about how wretched things were.  It was always up to the other guy to help us.  Then one day – and it was my lucky day - Mrs. Smith, my 5th grade teacher, a long, bony woman with the biggest grey eyes I’ve ever seen, changed my life.  She looked at me in class and asked me to stay behind at the end of the day.  I was a little reluctant, scared, wondering what I had done wrong.  Was she going to get me for something? 

            Well, I stayed anyway and she said to me then, “Why do you do C work when you could do A work?  Why are you doing as little as possible instead of as much as possible to master whatever we are studying in class?  Are you lazy, Madeline?  You don’t seem lazy when you are talking to your friends or are out on the playground.  Tell me, what happens in the classroom?”

            Madeline stood silent at the end of her recollection of Mrs. Smith’s question.  Then she began again.  “She looked at me so intently with those penetrating gray eyes that I was almost mesmerized and answered without any cover up or defense.  I told her I just had no answer and that it really didn’t matter to anyone what I did.  I’ll never forget her passionate response, her clear voice saying, ‘Does not matter to anyone or makes no difference to anyone?  Are you no one, Madeline?  Am I not looking at a vigorous, lively face of a person with brains and dignity?  Are you so unimportant to yourself that you bring only a small part of your ability to the daily play?  Oh, Madeline, never, ever think or say for a minute that what you do doesn’t matter!  Everything you do matters and when you do C work when you are able to do A work, you are letting down your very best friend in the whole world, yourself.’”

            Madeline took on her own voice and began delivering again.  “Now, I had never thought of myself in this light.  I’d certainly never thought it mattered how I did my work.  But Mrs. Smith - with her passionate protest over my non-performance - affected me in two ways; I felt challenged as I had never been challenged to investigate her claim that I could turn my C work into A work.  And, just as important, I felt within myself a stirring of what now could be called “self respect.”  She verbally shook me into new thinking.  Someone was saying, yes, you can do better if you try instead of always whining poor you, it’s always like this, things never get any better.’”

            “Oh what a memorable encounter and a memorable teacher she was.  Of course, I didn’t turn around overnight but it started me thinking.  Much more importantly, it started me trying.  It started me working to make more from each class challenge.  Instead of doing the least I could do, I started doing the best I could do and each C that turned into an A made me happy and more self-confident.  I was no longer thinking about the things I didn’t have or didn’t like because I was too busy working on doing better in every corner of my life.”

            “Turning a C in math into an A not only made me feel good, it made my mother feel good.  Something positive was happening and it all started when I started doing the very best I could in every corner of life.  What a difference I began making in the classroom with my classmates but that was because I took very good care of my best friend, myself.  I tried my darndest never to let me down and that meant that I was a better friend to lots of other kids who had given up.  When I won a full scholarship to our state college, I was really on my way.  And as it worked out, my new path led not just to college but, after graduation, to work in a publishing house and finally to writing itself. You must have loved my books or you wouldn’t have chosen me to be your guest speaker for this rally.  But, as you can see, I’m not talking about my books tonight; I’m here to bestow the greatest gift that I could give you, an introduction to your best friend, yourself.  You have it in you.  If you seize it, it will give you the ability to improve your lot dramatically.  Never forget we are living in the land of opportunity.  It’s up to you to decide what you want and then to go get it.”  She paused and then grinned widely, concluding with “The first time you turn a C into an A, write to me.  We will celebrate together.”

 

       Web Site: Carrying The Banner

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