Recent media attention has focussed upon random acts of kindness, specifically the story of Winnipeg bus driver, Kris Doubledee. Doubledee is the man who stopped his bus and gave his shoes to a barefoot homeless man. His selfless action garnered international attention.
I started thinking about random acts of kindness, and soon I was digging through my memories box in search of a particular item — my 1964 autograph book. As I flipped through the pages, I smiled at the entries — funny poems portraying a long ago world of innocence.
However, there is one entry in that autograph book that impressed me when it was written, and still rings true some 48 years later. The words are written in red ink in perfect penmanship. Amid the silly ditties and the awkward handwriting, these words jump off the page:
One rule to guide you in your life is always good and true, ‘Tis – "Do to others as you would that they should do to you."
J. J. Deans, Room 18
Mrs. Deans was my Grade 4 teacher at Lord Nelson School in the North End of Winnipeg. The year was 1964.
I vividly remember Mrs. Deans. She was always in total control of our classroom. We all knew the boundaries, and no one overstepped them. One look from Mrs. Deans could strike fear in your heart.
I remember loving school that year. Mrs. Deans was a kind, caring, efficient teacher, and her class learned respect and compassion for others.
Thinking about Kris Doubledee and Mrs. Deans, I begin to wonder: How do we learn to be compassionate?
Perhaps the role models in our lives, special people like Mrs. Deans, who lead by example, teach us this life lesson. Experiences also help shape who we are. During my own times of trouble, I developed an understanding of how difficult life can be. It is easy to forget that any one of us might experience misfortune someday, due to circumstances beyond our control, and so it is essential to remember that we are all part of the family of man.
I don’t know whatever happened to Mrs. Deans. She not only taught me the golden rule, but motivated me to become a teacher, a profession I enjoyed for 33 years. I hope that I will always remember her sage advice.
Maybe we all need to try to walk a mile in another man’s shoes.
Joanne O’Leary is a Riverbend-based writer.
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