He was in the first third grade class I taught at Saint Mary's
School in Morris, Minn. All 34 of my students were dear to me, but
Mark Eklund was one in a million. Very neat in appearance, but
happy-to-be-alive attitude that made even his occasional
Mark talked incessantly. I had to remind him again and again
that talking without permission was not acceptable. What
me so much, though, was his sincere response every time I had to
correct him for misbehaving - "Thank you for correcting me,
didn't know what to make of it at first, but before long I became
to hearing it many times a day.
One morning my patience was growing thin when Mark talked once
too often, and then I made a novice-teacher's mistake. I looked at
Mark and said, "If you say one more word, I am going to tape your
It wasn't ten seconds later when Chuck blurted out, "Mark is
again." I hadn't asked any of the students to help me watch
Mark, but since I had stated the punishment in front of the class,
to act on it.
I remember the scene as if it had occurred this morning. I
walked to my desk, very deliberately opened my drawer and took out
masking tape. Without saying a word, I proceeded to Mark's desk,
off two pieces of tape and made a big X with them over his mouth.
then returned to the front of the room.
As I glanced at Mark to see how he was doing, he winked at me.
That did it!! I started laughing. The class cheered as I walked
Mark's desk, removed the tape, and shrugged my shoulders. His
words were, "Thank you for correcting me, Sister."
At the end of the year, I was asked to teach junior-high math.
The years flew by, and before I knew it Mark was in my classroom
again. He was more handsome than ever and just as polite. Since
listen carefully to my instruction in the "new math," he did not
as much in ninth grade as he had in third. One Friday, things just
didn't feel right. We had worked hard on a new concept all week,
sensed that the students were frowning, frustrated with themselves
edgy with one another.
I had to stop this crankiness before it got out of hand.
So I asked them to list the names of the other students in the
room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name.
told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of
their classmates and write it down. It took the remainder of the
class period to finish their assignment, and as the students left
each one handed me the papers. Charlie smiled. Mark said, "Thank
for teaching me, Sister. Have a good weekend."
That Saturday, I wrote down the name of each student on a
separate sheet of paper, and I listed what everyone else had said
individual. On Monday I gave each student his or her list. Before
entire class was smiling. "Really?" I heard whispered. "I never
that meant anything to anyone!" "I didn't know others liked me so
much." No one ever mentioned those papers in class again. I never
if they discussed them after class or with their parents, but it
matter. The exercise had accomplished its purpose. The students
happy with themselves and one another again.
That group of students moved on.
Several years later, after I returned from vacation, my parents met
at the airport. As we were driving home, Mother asked me the usual
questions about the trip - the weather, my experiences in general.
There was a lull in the
conversation. Mother gave Dad a side-ways glance and simply said,
My father cleared his throat as he usually did before something
"The Eklunds called last night," he began. "Really?" I said. "I
haven't heard from them in years. I wonder how Mark is."
Dad responded quietly. "Mark was killed in Vietnam," he said.
"The funeral is tomorrow, and his parents would like it if you
attend." To this day I can still point to the exact spot on I-494
Dad told me about Mark.
I had never seen a serviceman in a military coffin before. Mark
looked so handsome, so mature. All I could think at that moment
Mark I would give all the masking tape in the world if only you
talk to me.
The church was packed with Mark's friends. Chuck's sister sang
"The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Why did it have to rain on the
day of the funeral? It was difficult enough at the graveside. The
pastor said the usual prayers, and the bugler played taps. One by
those who loved
Mark took a last walk by the coffin and sprinkled it with holy
I was the last one to bless the coffin. As I stood there, one of
soldiers who acted as pallbearer came up to me. "Were you Mark's
teacher?" he asked. I nodded as I continued to stare at the
"Mark talked about you a lot," he said.
After the funeral, most of Mark's former classmates headed to
farmhouse for lunch. Mark's mother and father were there, obviously
waiting for me. "We want to show you something," his father said,
taking a wallet out of his pocket. "They found this on Mark when
killed. We thought you might recognize it."
Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of
paper that had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times.
knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which I had
all the good things each of Mark's classmates had said about him.
"Thank you so much for doing that," Mark's mother said. "As you
can see, Mark treasured it." Mark's classmates started to gather
us. Charlie smiled rather sheepishly and said, "I still have my
It's in the top
drawer of my desk at home." Chuck's wife said, "Chuck asked me to
his in our wedding album." "I have mine too," Marilyn said. "It's
Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took
her wallet and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group.
"I carry this with me at all times," Vicki said without batting an
eyelash. "I think we all saved our lists."
That's when I finally sat down and cried. I cried for Mark and
for all his friends who would never see him again.
Written by: Sister Helen P. Mrosla
The purpose of this letter is to encourage everyone to
compliment the people you love and care about. We often tend to
importance of showing our affections and love. Sometimes the
things, could mean the most to another. I am asking you, to
send this letter around and spread the message and encouragement,
express your love and caring by complimenting and being open with
communication. The density of people in society is so thick that
forget that life will end one day. And we don't know when that one
will be. So please, I beg
tell the people you love and care for that they are special
and important. Tell them, before it is too late.
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