I am a retired English and Spanish teacher and have moonlighted as an adjunct college instructor for years. Three years ago I get a call from one of my favorite ex-students from the high school days. She’s a counselor at the same school. “Hey, Mr. Hancock. Would you consider coming back to teach Spanish. We are two weeks into the semester, and we can’t find a teacher.”
“Well, if it was anyone else but you, Kristy, I would say no.”
“Then you will?”
“Yes.” And thus began my second foray into the sometimes numbing void of inexperience of high school adolescents. 15-17-year-olds exude such an obnoxious stench of self-importance at times. It is based entirely on their over-inflated opinionated egos. I love them and, of course, try to direct them into the knowledge that the world does not revolve around them and their phones and that the real world is comprised of actual experiences.
Getting their attention is difficult. It is only when I bare my soul and tell them a MASH Hospital Vietnam story, how frantic it was when we went to the chinook helicopter to get the three survivors on litters and how I looked into the rear of the chopper and saw bodies thrown in like a pile of cord wood with lifeless limbs askew reaching out to me for help.
Or I might keep it a little lighter like when we were seated around a little table–no less–on the floor of Winterland in San Francisco–experiencing this new act called the Jimi Hendrix Experience in October 1968 right after I got back home from Nam, and how it only cost $3. 50 (That’s a 20 dollar bill in today’s money–Boy, are you guys getting robbed!).
Or I might share how after my “joyous cosmology” days in the Bay Area, we did a much needed volte-face and joined a Christian community, traveled to Mexico, and learned what the true treasure of the Sierra Madre was, or when I tell of the man there on the side of an obscure mountain who desperately wanted to trade a bird in a cardboard cracker box for food, and how he cried, “Pan, pan” with those tear-less sunken eyes and how we opened the back of our van and gave them the large sacks of corn and beans that in the end were meant for them.
It is only then that my students’ prematurely hardened hearts melt a bit until the bell rings, and they, like robots, go to their phones to see if anyone is thinking about them.
Experiences are important. Writing about them is their crown and reason to be. For in the end, our experiences are the tools that the Sculptor used to shape us into His sons and daughters. And He has given us the words to relate these experiences. For the written word is very powerful, “mightier than the sword.” And in the word’s humble clothing, a lifetime lives on and on. So write if you don’t, and keep writing if you do. And thanks for reading my words. Kenneth Wayne Hancock
[The full Mexico stories are here: https://immortalityroad.wordpress.com/2010/02/15/true-treasures-of-the-sierra-madre/ https://immortalityroad.wordpress.com/2008/05/01/famine-integrity-and-the-cardboard-cage/
A Vietnam story is here: https://immortalityroad.wordpress.com/2008/05/27/remembering-a-tragedy-at-the-vietnam-veterans-memorial-wall/ ]