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A Hundred Years From Now … In memory of Maryetta Rodgers Gross Dotson

February 25, 2013

 In the past few weeks and months, my community or circle of acquaintances has suffered the loss of several old friends and good neighbors.  Some of these folks were up in years and while we all know there comes a time when each of us (and our loved ones) will pass away, the loss is still real, and the reflection and tribute we pay to the influence they had on our lives is vital to our grief and coping, and our “living life.”

In recent days, one of my elementary school teachers passed away. In reading the tributes on the funeral home guestbook and the expressions of sympathy posted to her daughter’s Facebook page, I’m truly in awe of the incredible influence this one person had on so many people.

Earlier today, I was basically “wasting time” in my easy chair, watching a show on the television and the thought ran through my mind about how quickly time passes by … and it’s not fruitful at all that we (society as a whole) have resolved to spending too much of it in front of a screen of some sort.  Minutes turn to hours, hours to days, and days to weeks and suddenly, a year has passed and we find ourselves at a loss for “what have we really accomplished.”

Then one day … we don’t know when … an obit with our names will be posted on a Facebook wall, or a funeral home website, or the obituaries in the online newspaper edition … and there will be a whole other group of folks wasting away in front of a screen, reading what folks think about our time here on earth.  I don’t mean at all to sound morbid … but it is true … it is reality.

As I reflect on the life and influence of my old school teacher, I’m happily reminded of an inspirational poem that I’ve read numerous times, (one that would certainly be befitting for her eulogy):

A hundred years from now no one will remember

How much money I had in the bank

what kind of car I drove

or what kind of job I had.

But I will be remembered

as someone special

because I made a difference

in the life of a child.

Sitting here now, I am convinced that anyone should be so proud to leave behind such a legacy.  Making a difference in the life of a child … what better service can one provide to humankind?  We worry and fret over money … we busy ourselves with every little distraction that can be known to man … and the most precious, most valuable thing that we can offer and give to ANYONE, especially a child, is time and genuine interest in their dreams, potential and promise.

One person posted about Maryetta Gross Dotson, (my elementary school teacher), that she was instrumental in getting them involved in the local 4-H program.   I remember that too.  In fact, while her classroom was almost always the most chaotic room in the school (including the gym), somehow or another, we found order to learn practical things in a fun, interesting way.   By encouraging us through 4-H, she opened up more doors and windows for us to discover even more practical learning.

I remember that it was in her class that I discovered that I had a knack for writing.  I don’t know why or what the assignment was, but I remember turning in a story about the weather (we’d been studying that), and the story was fiction.  I wanted to use a pseudonym and she let me.   The penname was Terri Lancaster, Meteorologist.    I smile thinking about the “freedom” she allowed us to have and to  “think outside the box.” 

I also remember that she brought in some old radios and gave them to a couple of boys, and told them to “take them apart” and see what’s inside.   They found wires and magnets and spent days mesmerized by this project.

She let us be creative.  I remember taking a large box and making a “submarine” out of it, and she let me and another girl (but I don’t remember who)  sit inside it for class.   That’s pretty weird. That’s not “in control”  at all —- or is it? 

She could never see the top of her desk. She would go in to mad rages and swing her paddle at the rear ends of whatever kid was closest.  It could be scary.  I’ve seen one or two incidents that would have landed her in jail and on CNN in present times.  Sometimes, she seemed irrational … but then, we would become enamored with her when she was teaching in her element — something fun and creative.

I once read a book that posed the question about trusting God when you really don’t know what He is going to do.  How do you trust such a large God … such a powerful, all-present, all-knowing God who causes the earth to tremble at the sound of His name?  The answer is, you can trust Him when you know His heart !

Well, as I recall my days in elementary school, and the honest truth that some folks might remember Mrs. Gross-Dotson as a teacher with a temper or prone to impulsive reactions, and a chaotic form of teaching,  I cannot help but to realize that in spite of what some would deem unconventional  —- she did not hide her heart.  She loved people … I believe she loved children.  I know she loved her community and saw great promise and potential in her friends and neighbors.  I’ve witnessed her go the extra mile plenty of times to “bring out the shy child” and at the same time, be more tolerant of the rowdy ruffian than his own family might have been. 

In present times, teachers are rightfully “scared” to be too involved in the lives of their students.  Marietta would take a group of girls (and boys if they wanted to come along) on a camping/hiking trip.  I went!  I can’t remember if we had food to eat or water to drink, but I remember sleeping in a tent with about 10 others and getting up early and hiking up a mountain.

I have never just sat down and truly given proper credence to the influence this woman had on my life.  Here I sit … and in every aspect of my life, I so greatly appreciate the artsy, creative, quirky, eccentricity of people.  I love story and right now, I’m wishing that I had known more of her story. 

Bless your heart, Mrs. Dotson!  You lived a good and long life.  I suspect that as you enter into the glorious presence of our Savior and Lord, Jesus … that He is smiling and welcoming you with arms outstretched.  You did good, Girl!  You helped a lot of children “enjoy life” and bring joy to the lives of others.   Your teaching ministry bore many, many  fruits.

We don’t always realize the “fruit” that others have brought into our lives until they are gone.   May we all embrace the legacy left by Maryetta Rodgers Gross Dotson … living our lives to the fullest in service and appreciation and love for others.

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