Monday, October 5, 2009

Remembering Heroes

I know I’ve mentioned that I grew up with no one knowing I had Asperger’s Syndrome. It made things quite a challenge for any who dealt with me and there were those who gave up. I’m not writing to talk about them today. Today, I want to pay my undying respect to those who took one extra step beyond and never, no never, gave up on me.

The first person I want to talk about, taught me in Boy’s Chorus at Irving Jr High in 1982. I have to say that Junior High years were the hardest on me. I had a heavy helping of bullies and general difficulty. Matters at home were no different and I felt depression’s grip icily on my heart.

I started storming out of classes because I simply felt so overwhelmed. I couldn’t handle the fact that I had no safe haven. I couldn’t process all of what happened around me and I had no idea why. So, I started considering suicide. No, no one knew of this, not even Ms. Paula Baack, my chorus teacher.

Ms. Baack gave me an example in life that made me change my mind about how long I wanted to live. She never knew this until I emailed her recently. One very special day changed everything and started me thinking. I got very upset that day and I stormed for that door, like I had several times before. What she said froze me in my tracks.

“David, if you go out that door, we are through!”

No one had ever said anything like that to me before and I couldn’t imagine what a dire consequence it meant I faced. All the same, it flipped a switch somewhere in me that no one else had managed to find. I turned and slowly walked back to my seat. The rest of the class could only stare in total amazement.

Ms. Baack is, to this day, a great teacher and powerful performer in her own right, but she can do one other thing better than most teachers I ever met. She could and still can reach the student. She reached me at Death’s door, even though she had no idea that such an event lay so close to me.

So I emailed her recently and explained the truth of all that I was living through at the time. I told her about the discovery of my autism and how it likely had great effect on my behavior and decisions. I thanked her for all she did back then. Then I got a surprise. As it turned out, my email went to her on a critical day in her life and affected a powerful decision in her life. Isn’t it amazing how one moment in a child’s life can carry with them forever. On moment can mean the difference between life and death.

God bless Ms. Paula Baack and every teacher out there who can be even residually like her.

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