This evening the President of the United States will deliver the State of the Union Address. Afterward, news anchors and political S.P.I.N. doctors will recast his words to either support or malign him, his political party, and the
direction he desires this still great nation to travel. We will hear words about budgets, taxes, choice, and freedom. Choice and freedom: these are the words our nation devotes herself too. Choice and freedom: I recall a lesson from elementary school that sticks with me.
Mrs. Gulsby was my fifth grade teacher at Escambia Christian School. The last time I saw her was in 2009 at my aunt’s funeral. 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 45 rpm records that had multiplication songs on them. The mighty fifth grade had to sing those “baby 4th 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 choice and freedom.
Realize that fourth and fifth grade students begin to grasp the concept of the United States being a “free country.” Students start expressing and exploring 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 choice and 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