Saturday, December 22, 2012

Nelda And Louise

There are people we intersect with in life who profoundly change us, perhaps even decades later. This is about one of the ones who changed me. It is from November 1, 2009.

It came about a week ago in the mail as it does three times per year. As always, I enjoyed the Harding University alumni magazine. It's well written and informative as to life on the campus in Searcy, Arkansas. Towards the back of the thirty-two page newsletter were updates on HU grads- I knew several- followed by the death notices. I was startled to find Mom's obituary. I shouldn't have been surprised- I sent it last April- but seeing it in print jolted me. I was hoping they would include the picture from the Harding yearbook of Mom as May Queen I included but I know they have limited amounts of room. It was a fitting sendoff to the wonderful woman who was Nelda Chesshir Hawley. She would have liked it and Dad would have been proud. It mentioned they met at Harding which underscores the impact of Harding in my life, too!

There was another obituary on the same page as Mom's that grabbed my heart. It was just a short one and is reproduced below:
Louise Terry Hester ('38), 91, died February 8. She was Petit Jean queen in 1938. She is survived by a daughter, Linda Wright.
(To the non-Hardingite, the Petit Jean is the name of Harding's annual.)

I knew Louise Hester but I did not know she spent her college years at Harding. Mrs. Hester moved to my hometown in Nebraska when I was a little boy and she taught French at York High School. I always thought she was very southern in personality and very refined in manners. She was friends with my parents at church and in the summers, she hired me to work in her yard. I recall our family being invited to her house to eat after worship services. Those are all pleasant, nostalgic memories but that's not why I remember Louise Hester.

When I was in fifth grade, Mrs. Hester taught our Sunday school class which consisted of me and a bunch of girls. She challenged us to memorize the entirety of Matthew, chapter 5, which is the first third of the Sermon on the Mount. It contains forty-eight verses of some of the most difficult to live by teachings of Jesus. If we chose to accept her challenge, she would buy us whatever we wished for. Now I am pretty sure Mrs. Hester was not rich but she knew how to motivate a ten year old boy. I wanted a York High Duke gym bag, blue and gold, and I knew possessing it would make me a world class athlete. I was bound and determined to commit those four dozen verses to memory, even if my reasons for doing so were not exactly spiritual in nature. And so, I did it. And in doing so, I found that I enjoyed memorizing and that I was good at it. And I learned that I could accomplish a difficult task and have fun in the process. And when I became a teacher, my history classes committed to memory the Preamble to the Constitution, the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, etc. And when my classroom duties shifted to instructing about the Bible, my students began memorizing Scriptures and hymns. I doubt Mrs. Hester had any idea what a profound impact she had on me but she caused a little light to come on in my head and her influence continues. Tomorrow, my 8th and 10th graders will be required to take out a sheet of paper and write out their memory verse assignment, the words of Luke 7:29-30. Some will do well and some will struggle and somehow, I just get this feeling that Mrs. Hester would approve.

Applicable quote of the day:
"The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery."
Mark Van Doren

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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1 comment:

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Steve, this post prompts a recent memory. I visited a former church of mine a couple of years ago. While I was there, I heard vague rumors that people "important to the church" had passed away. I found myself deeply emotional at the thought that this one particular couple I really love might be the ones under discussion.

As I told a friend, it wasn't the thought of their passing that bothered me. I knew they would go straight to heaven. It bothered me that it might have happened and I would not have KNOWN. There was something horrible in that.

I'll have to blog on that topic. It's one of the hazards of our highly-mobile lives, that we must hear of death through impersonal sources.