The start of the school year always leads me down memory lane. Suddenly I’m back at that one room country school being welcomed by Mrs. Martin, the only teacher I would have for the next seven years. Not that I kept flunking first grade, but all 15-20 of us were taught in the same room until we graduated.
Eighth grade graduation from country school was a big occasion. Wed join several other schools like ours at a church in a nearby town to hear a speaker try to fill our young minds with dreams of what could be and get our diplomas. Our graduation slogan was “Be the best of whatever you are.” Those words frequently float back into my mind, prodding me to work harder in order to push myself a notch closer to the dream.
Memories of growing up on the family farm have had a powerful effect on my life. We rose early, worked hard and quit late. Those habits have stayed with me through life and I’m grateful for them. Life is short at its longest and we need to seize every opportunity that comes our way to be productive and make a difference. Each morning I read the following quote that hangs on the wall of my study:
“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do I ought to do. And by the grace of God I will do it.”
There’s no way to face that challenge every morning and idle the day away.
Remembering encouraging things people have said helps keep us motivated and effective. Let’s forget the downers and remember those who’ve come into our lives to build us up: parents, teachers and others.
“You’re going to ruin that boy,” I heard more than one say when my father told about how well I had done some job on the farm. But Dad was no dummy. He knew hearing those words of praise would build confidence in me to tackle any task he assigned and motivate me to work all the harder.
Then there was the high school English teacher who came to my desk to say, “Roger, I like the way you write. You’re close to getting an A.” She never gave me that top grade, but youre reading this column because of the memory of her encouragement.
Memories of growing up attending a white country church on a hill make me grateful. Often I find myself giving thanks for the pastors there who made a difference in my life. Most of our ministers during those Depression and World War Two years were graduates of the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My guess is that only one or two of them had been to seminary. But they loved God, cared for souls, reached out to youth, filled our minds with the Bible and packed the pews with eager listeners.
And they kept us busy. There were services Sunday morning and evening, midweek prayer meetings and activities, annual missionary conferences and frequent week long services with traveling evangelists. If you’re wondering how we had time for all of this, remember we had no television sets, video games or computers.
It was at that country church that I met the two most important influences on my life: my Lord and the attractive girl who would become my wife. Both have showered me with love and been faithful to me. I owe both of them more than I can ever repay.
And I intend to spend the rest of my life showing them Ill never forget it.
Roger Campbell is an author, a broadcaster and columnist who was a pastor for 22 years.