Garage sales are a peculiar pastime. I am not one of those people who enjoy rummaging through other people’s unwanted items. My mother was, and she convinced me to accompany her one cool and dreary morning. I jumped at a chance to hand off my new baby to Grandpa and spend some adult time with my mother.
We went to several garage sales and finally stopped at a pleasant cottage in the woods. The elderly owner told me that he and his wife were moving into a retirement complex. His wife had been a teacher before she had a stroke and retired. She missed teaching with all her heart.
As we were perusing the sale items, I heard the gentleman’s small, frail wife say her name to someone, and I immediately realized who she was. She looked at me and said, “You are Lisa Miller.” I stared at her in awe, for it had been nearly thirty years since I had been in her class.
My mother immediately apologized to her for any trouble I might have caused. She did that routinely now after learning that my brothers and I were not the sweet little angels she thought. She assumed that if this woman remembered me after so many years, I must have really done something horrible. My teacher looked at my mother and softly said, “Oh no, she was very good,” and my mother stared at her in disbelief.
My teacher explained that during the last week of school, I brought her a plant from my mother’s garden. It was a Lamb’s Ear, a small plant with leaves that look and feel like a lamb’s ear. She said it came to her roots and all and was probably pulled out that morning as I ran out the door. (My mom knew that it was probably a peace token, and I had in fact done something that needed some sort of atonement.)
My teacher took us to a patch of plants and told us that she planted the Lamb’s Ear in her garden, and over the years it spread. As I looked down her driveway, I was taken aback at the site of Lamb’s Ears lining both sides of it. She looked at me and said, “Every day when I leave my house and drive up the driveway, I think of you. And when I come home these plants greet me, and I think of you.” Tears welled up in my eyes. There at her home, among all her belongings, was a piece of my life that she had nurtured.
In that moment, she taught me more about life than I could imagine. We give pieces of ourselves every day without thought or expectation. We rarely envision the effects that we have on others’ lives. That piece may grow and spread, becoming an integral part of a life. In the end it is not the big things that matter, but the small things that make all the difference in the world.
This is the lesson that I take with me to my classroom every day, and the lesson that got me through lymphoma and chemotherapy. I never had a chance to thank her, but I hope she took a Lamb’s Ear with her to her new home.
Garage sales are a peculiar pastime — you just never know what you will find. Every item has a story. A lot of those stories have a life lesson attached, if we will listen. I found my calling.
Lisa Miller Rychel Teacher Tales Chicken Soup for the Soul http://www.chickensoup.com/