A Lesson from Fifth Grade

This past weekend I was back in Pensacola, Florida for the funeral of my mom’s only sister (my aunt). While there, I had the opportunity to see people who are a part of my past. One of those people is Mrs. Gulsby, my fifth grade teacher at Escambia Christian School. Mrs. Gulsby was everything a fifth grade teacher should be — TOUGH! She expected a lot from those 10 year old students in her charge. The first week of school she tested us on our multiplication facts. When she realized that some of us were derelict over the summer and did not practice our math skills, she marched down to the fourth grade teacher and borrowed the 45rpm records that had multiplication songs on them. The mighty fifth grade had to sing those “baby fourth grade” songs every morning until every student could pass a multiplication facts test.

There is one event from her class that was not part of any lesson plan that turns out to be a pivotal event in my understanding of freedom. If you remember fourth and fifth grade, you may recall that students begin to grasp the concept of the United States being a “free country.” Students express this concept in many ways. Sally pushes her way past Billy to get to the fountain and emphatically states over his protests, that “it’s a free country, I can cut if I want too.” Back to Mrs. Gulsby’s lesson. Sam (not his real name) came back from the boy’s room complaining with small tears in his eyes that John (not his real name) had hit him in the arm and wouldn’t apologize. When John came into the room, Mrs. Gulsby asked if he had hit Sam. John replied, “It was an accident! I was just swinging my arm and I accidentally hit him!” Mrs. Guslby insisted that he apologize anyway. John protested, “It’s a free country, I can swing my arm if I want to, why should I apologize?”

Mrs. Gulsby then said something so profound that many in our nation today need to hear her words of wisdom. If we as individuals, minority groups, majority groups, activists, and lobbyists would apply her words . . . well our nation just might be a better place.

Her wise counsel was this, “John, your freedom to swing your arm ended where Sam’s shoulder began! Now go say you are sorry.”

Thank you Mrs. Gulsby. Your words provided counsel on many occasions. Your words help me to apply the words of an even greater teacher who once said, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” Matt 7:12.


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