“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
In our amazingly fast-paced, instantly on-line society, it seems there are fewer opportunities to “stop and smell the roses”. I had one of those rare moments yesterday around Noon. I’d gone to meet my wife prior to us heading to Logan Airport to pick up our daughter Amy. We’re so thrilled that Amy’s in the area for ten days or so to do several public appearances regarding her family’s missionary call. I arrived a bit early at Marian High School in Framingham where Mary Ann works. It was such a pleasant day that I decided to take a few minutes, sit on one of their outdoor benches, and just enjoy the atmosphere. My eyes quickly zeroed in on the beautiful autumn colors of a tree located just off the school’s parking lot. Suddenly, I remembered a scene from my own high school days.
It was this time of year, early October of 1968. I was a fourteen-year-old freshman at Canton High School. Miss Starr’s English One class overlooked a courtyard which included a small number of deciduous trees. Miss Starr commented to the class that she’d taught at Canton High for several years in that very classroom. Every autumn, she enjoyed watching the few trees as their leaves changed to bright fall colors, then dropped to the ground. I remember her commenting that the trees changed color one tree at a time, in the very same order every year. I don’t know why I remember Miss Starr saying that. At that age, it would never have occurred to me to watch a specific group of trees changing color during autumn, or that they all went through the process in the same order each year. Such a thing would have been about as interesting to me as watching paint dry! Now, here I was, at Marian High School, forty-eight years later, a sixty-two-year old man, watching a tree off the parking lot in beautiful fall colors and remembering Miss Starr and her observations.
I had some very good teachers at Canton High and I also had some very bad teachers there. I think of a few of them from time to time. Miss Starr was of the vast majority of my secondary school instructors whom I’d considered somewhat “in-between”. As I’ve thought about Miss Starr over the past day or so, I realize she was far more than a mediocre teacher. Miss Starr left Canton High after that year and I never saw her again. I remember that we read Charles Dickins' Great Expectations that year. I also remember Miss Starr introducing us to great poetry. I was really not interested in that material at the time. I just sat through it, looking at the clock and waiting for class to end. We read and discussed works such as Richard Cory and My Last Dutchess. I even remember that Miss Starr played a recording of The Kingston Trio singing, Tom Dooley. Today, I’m a guy who loves good poetry and great short stories. Did Miss Starr contribute to that appreciation of good writing that I now possess? Maybe she did! I don’t know where Miss Starr is today. She probably has a different last name. Several times in her class, another kid named Steve and I were laughing and fooling around. I remember that one day, she kind of verbally laid in on me, saying this was my “seventeenth time” of fooling around, and that day she moved my seat to a different location. My seat in her classroom remained in that location for the remainder of the year. In those days, it would never, ever have occurred to me to thank Miss Starr for all she was teaching us and trying to do for us. Today, I wish I could do that!
Yes, all of this came to me as I sat at Marian High School and watched a tree displaying its beautiful fall colors. I wonder if those trees are still standing at Canton High School? Trees typically live a long time. My guess is, they probably are. If they are still there, their leaves are transforming to bright fall colors, one tree at a time, in the same order as they were changing back in 1968.
1968 was a presidential election year. Those were tumultuous times! Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated. Rioting broke out at the 1968 Democratic Convention. The major party candidates were Democrat Hubert Humphrey and Republican Richard Nixon. Humphrey was Vice-President under Lyndon Johnson. He was seen as a man who wanted to retain the status quo. Nixon seemed at least somewhat phony and like a throwback to the 1950s. The country was pretty disheartened and unimpressed with these presidential candidates. Sound familiar?
No fourteen-year-old kids at Marian High School or any other school could imagine how fast forty-eight years go by! It seems like only yesterday. Today, I thought about how old I’ll be in forty-eight more years. It will be 2064. I will be a hundred ten years old! Frankly, I’m one of those Bible-believing Christians who believes we’re very close to the second coming of Christ and the end of this Age. It’s difficult for me to believe we’ll reach 2064 without the Lord having come back! The bottom line is, this life as we know it will all be over so quickly! And each autumn, in their order, the deciduous trees in North America continue to change color and drop their leaves.