Reflecting on the past and laughing in the present!

Let My Laughter Resound!


This experience was anything but humorous or ‘laughable’ while I was ‘suffering’ through it. But with the passage of time, and with the clarity of judgment, I have been able to more objectively view this experience! When I was a teenager, to fail miserably, in the presence of a house full of adults (some of whom were professionals and probably ‘perfectionists’) was a very formidable and ‘scary’ experience.

The fact that I can recount the details of that evening at the Baptist Church where the recital was held – this demonstrates that the embarrassment of that evening (53 years ago) has been indelibly imprinted on my brain! I remember this frightening experience very well, almost as if it happened last week.

This piano recital happened (I think) the summer of 1961 (over 50 years ago, from the time I am presently writing this account). I think I was then 16 years old, and I am now nearly 69 years old! What does this tell you about the miracle of the human memory? Many events of the past would be hard for us to recall (at least in detail), but those events of the past that were filled with strong emotions – it’s those memories that are relatively easy to recall (even after the passage of several decades)!

It is rather amazing that the human mind can look at an event, from more than ‘one angle’. That is to say, as in the example of my fiasco with my piano recital (which evoked pain in me), a person can eventually look at a ‘pain-giving’ episode from a different angle (than the angle that one at first saw the event).

I certainly (legitimately) could not laugh at my embarrassing ‘flop’ (massive failure) on the night of the recital (and immediately thereafter). I certainly could not (would not) appear with my music teacher, the week after the recital, and then start ‘laughing’ regarding my failure.

Only after the elapse of some time, (perhaps a lot of time), I began to see the ‘funny side’ of my major failure with my piano playing. Now, years later, when I tell of this long-ago incident, I have grandchildren (four of them) who think it is so ‘funny’ that I could not play the patriotic piece. Over and over they like to say ‘Oh, say can you see’ – and then, to emphasize my major failure, they will say the same ‘word’ over and over. ‘See’, ‘see’, ‘see’, ‘see’?

At this point in my life, I want my grandchildren (and friends) to tease me, to have fun with me, to emphasize my long-age piano recital fiasco! I am not sensitive to their ‘teasing’ of me, for, after all, I was the one who has learned to see the ‘light side’ of a one-time very heartbreaking event!

As long as we never make ‘fun’ (or hurt) anyone with our ‘jesting’, it is wise (as we get some ‘distance’ from an event that wasn’t at the time ‘laughable’), I say, it is wise for us to get a different ‘angle’ on the original event. We need, as we look at those distant events (which initially brought some embarrassment or discomfort) with a different ‘angle’ (with a different set of lens).

Most events (not the tragic events, caused by evil persons), I say, most events have a ‘funny side’ to them, if we are good-natured enough (humble enough) to allow ourselves to see the ‘funny side’.

Even though the event that we were initially involved in brought us some distress (embarrassment, etc.), when the event has passed, there may be some humorous aspects from that event that can be retrieved – that is, there may be some laughable or humorous or strange aspects that can be retrieved from the past event that can give you a ‘good laugh’!

It is a sign of maturity (objectivity) when you can recall some humorous aspects from your past ‘event’ – humor that can be used to allow you to share with your friends – to give them the small, but significant, gift of laughter!

The two episodes that I shared, previous to this episode regarding the piano recital – these two episodes are examples of finding humor in an event that, initially, was not laughable! When my math teacher (coach) became so frustrated with my lack of comprehension regarding a math concept, obviously, at the time of the event, I was not laughing.

I was embarrassed and rather shocked! But, often when I think about that beloved math teacher, and his impulsive action toward me, I do not feel anger or resentment. In fact, I am inclined to ‘smile’, and, at times, even to ‘laugh’. I laugh because of his impulsive behavior (unbecoming of a school teacher who is supposed to be ‘eternally patient’ with students).

I also laugh when I think of my own struggle with a math concept, and I laugh as I see myself trying to catch the blocks that the teacher threw at me (because of his frustration). I can still see myself shocked, as I see the blocks flying through the air, aimed at me who was sitting in the back of that small math class.

He was not throwing those blocks at me (in a vindictive manner), because he did not like me, but because he did like me – and he could not understand how I could be so ‘shallow’ in my understanding! I can’t help but laugh and laugh now – more than 50 years removed from that event which happened during my junior high period of life!

When I was ‘put on the spot’ and belittled and embarrassed by a teacher (this time in a high school algebra class) – by a ‘military-type’ teacher who used her piercing voice to tell me that she would rather be called a ‘cow’ than be called ‘MAAM’ – I certainly was not ‘laughing’. If I would have laughed at that tense time, I, of course, would have been sent to the principal’s office (maybe dismissed from her class permanently). No, I had no inclination to laugh (out loud) or to laugh (inwardly).

Far from laughing, I was nearly crying, and I was trembling inside. My emotions were erupting. On this second day of my education at Fountain High School, I was belittled and I was terribly embarrassed in front of my peers! I felt I was unfairly treated (which I, indeed, was). My mind was confused because I did not see that I had done anything wrong!

That experience (for a brand new sophomore) was traumatic, indeed. It took me a while to get over the trauma that came from that experience. My partial reconciliation with the teacher, based on much better information (regarding the teacher’s legitimate classroom rules), this ‘greater understanding of life’ brought considerable healing to my emotions and better understanding to my mind. As the years have come and gone, with further maturity in my life, I have found a ‘new angle’ by which to interpret the over-all ‘landscape’ of this experience from my high school life.

Without any desire to ‘make fun’ of this little soldier-like teacher (strict disciplinarian), I have shared (on a few occasions) the drama of my classroom experience, when this little (old maid) teacher came into the classroom, to find me returning from a pencil sharpener, and then to ‘blast’ me with her shrill voice! When I answered her question (as to what I was doing), and when I addressed her with the courteous title ‘ma’am’, she said that she would rather be called a ‘cow’ than be called ‘ma’am’! Now, from a distance, when I describe the kind of woman she was (without any derision towards her), and what she said to me, I find myself ‘laughing’ and ‘laughing’. And a few others have gotten a good laugh!

“Biblical Foundation For The Sanctity Of Human Life!”

Table of contents: Let my laughter resound!

“I’d rather be called a ‘cow’ than a ‘Maam’!”

Let My Laughter Resound!


It was the second day of my sophomore year. I had barely started, what would become my education at the Fountain High School for the next three years. I, of course, was in the underclass, and I felt all alone as I walked up and down the long hallways. I, frankly, had some apprehensions regarding my classes.

Of course, I did not know any of the teachers, and I wondered if I had what it would take to ‘tackle’ the various academic challenges (subjects). I tried to ‘ward off the fear’ that I felt, as I stared into the classrooms that seemed so ‘foreboding’, and as I stared into the faces of hundreds of students, all of whom seemed to be preoccupied with their own lives. I did not spot one student whom I felt would give me the ‘time of day’.

They seemed either to be indifferent towards anyone but themselves, or they seemed to be proud of themselves (the upper class men) as they strolled the halls with their ‘nose in the air’. As a Christian, I wondered if there was anyone who had any sympathy towards those values that were important to me! In short, I already felt ‘out of place’ in this ‘spread-out structure’ in what was labeled ‘Fountain High School’. Do I really have to be here for a combined time of three years?

With these thoughts in my mind (at least subconsciously), I had ‘butterflies in my stomach’ as I entered the algebra I class, for the second day of school. The teacher had not yet entered the room, but all the enrolled students for the course, were already seated. While the teacher was still absent from the class, I decided to get up from my desk, and walk over to the pencil sharpener, to sharpen my pencil.

As I was walking back to my desk, the regular hall bell rang, and, with no warning, the teacher, who had just entered the room, looked at me and she yelled at me (with her shrill voice), “What are you doing?” I was trembling (inside) and I (the only one who was walking towards my desk) answered, “I was sharpening my pencil, maam!” And then she quickly, with anger in her voice, verbally pounced on me! ‘I’d rather be called a ‘cow’ than ‘MAAM’!

Shocked, belittled, downgraded, totally embarrassed! I was ‘shaking in my boots’! I thought to myself, “What did I do that was so wrong? I simply got up to sharpen my pencil, before the class began!”

As a new (sophomore) student, in a brand new environment (new school), with no knowledge of this new teacher (except for this embarrassing outburst), and with no acquaintance with any fellow students – during that long hour in that Algebra class, I, frankly, felt inwardly crushed emotionally and mentally confused!

I wondered (in my mind, while I was supposed to keep my mind on Algebra) during that difficult hour of instruction, why this long-time teacher would treat me with such disrespect (on the second day of class). Why did she choose to bring great embarrassment to me, in front of aII my classroom peers? How would she like it if she were in ‘my shoes’?

I thought that the way she treated me was below the dignity of a teacher and a teacher who had taught in this high school for decades! Why did she pinpoint me (a brand new student, who already had many emotional traumas) to ‘zero in on me’ with such verbal abuse? And all of this in front of several other students? I, obviously, thought that if this is the kind of teacher that I have for Algebra, I am not sure that I want to be in her presence for many class sessions!

Most of these above-mentioned thoughts were probably on the subconscious level, but (even though this incident happened a long time ago), I feel sure that these thoughts properly describe my overall thought processes. Frankly, I was totally shaken and disturbed when this little (‘old maid’) teacher ‘let me have it verbally’.

This little ‘old maid’ teacher was like a ‘military officer’, and her commanding voice (scream) could be heard, all the way from one end of the long hallway to the other end of that long hallway. When she spotted (from a distance) some student that she perceived was in some way ‘unruly’, she would let that student know, by her shrill and piercing voice (much louder than anyone would imagine, coming from the mouth of a little woman).

Without seeming disrespectful, I must say that her face matched her ‘army-like demeanor’. Her countenance had some similarity to the countenance of a ‘bull dog’! That seems unkind to make that comparison! There were definitely some differences between this precious lady’s face and the face of a bulldog. However, probably most persons who had contact with her, would not be drawn to her because of her countenance.

A piercing and a harsh voice was quite compatible with a forbidding and forlorn face! Perhaps the two unusual features of this woman – voice and face – were developed into a militaristic voice and face, as a result of her long practice as a disciplinarian who often roamed the high school halls at Fountain High School, looking for students whom she perceived were ‘breaking the rules’. However big the students were, the students – including football players – knew that they must ‘bow and scrape’ to this little (‘old maid’) teacher!

They knew that this shrill and commanding voice must be obeyed! If they got on the ‘wrong side’ of this woman, they were ‘in for big trouble’, they were ‘in hot water’! After all, not only were all the students in submission to this ‘little commanding military officer’ (the one who knew just how to ‘yell’ at students, down the halls, and, certainly knew how to command perfect silence in her ‘study halls’), but all her fellow teachers and the principal himself were in submission to her ‘military-oriented ways’!

On that second day in that algebra class, I felt all alone, I felt defenseless, I felt abused by a teacher that I believed acted out of her emotions instead of out of her reason, a teacher who needlessly embarrassed me for no reason, in front of my peers. Perhaps my feelings were ‘justified’ (at least to some extent). But I soon found out that this teacher had her ‘own reasons’ for acting in the harsh way that she did.

I soon found out that this long-term teacher, whose demeanor seemed like the demeanor of harshness and rigid discipline, had a handful of students that she especially ‘favored’ as ‘elite-type’ students. You might call these few students her ‘pets’ – students that were her ‘favorites’! One student in that algebra class (that I enrolled in) was one of her ‘pets’. The teacher had a ‘special liking’ to that particular student. She was a junior student, and so this student had known the teacher the previous year.

Of course, I did not know this girl junior student (in the same class), but I found out soon that this junior girl went to the teacher, at the end of this class session, and that she had a ‘talk’ with the teacher (regarding the incident of that very hour). She reminded the teacher (respectfully but openly) that she (the teacher) had failed to communicate the ‘rules’ for her class, on the first day of school (yesterday).

One of those rules, among others, was the rule regarding the quietness of the students, and the rule that every student is to be in his/her desk, at the ringing of the bell. This student reminded the teacher that she had assumed that all the students knew the rules, but that, in fact, she had never gone over the rules with her class, the very first day of school!

To the credit of this ‘harsh teacher’, she felt terrible that she had treated me in such an inappropriate manner, during that particular class session. To the further credit of this ‘harsh teacher’, she went downstairs (of the school) to have a visit with my mother.

My mother worked as a ‘school cook’ in the lower level of this school, and this teacher (as well as several other teachers who worked in the high school) really liked my mother. They had a ‘good relationship’ with my dear mother.

The teacher who was a friend to my mother, communicated to my mother, regarding the incident, in which there was a lack of understanding between her (teacher) and me. My mother was not the kind of person who easily was offended, and (even though I never knew the exact conversation that mother had with this well-known teacher), I am sure that my mother was (as usual) very conciliatory.

To the further credit of this ‘harsh teacher’, this teacher arranged a time for her to walk with me, a few blocks, on my regular route from the school to my home. After a half century, I honestly don’t remember the content of that unusual conversation, between that ‘little-understood’ teacher and me. But, whether or not she actually apologized to me (I don’t remember), the fact that she wanted to walk with me, and to carry on a friendly conversation with me – this loving act on her part, meant a great deal to me!

At the time that I was yelled at, in front of my fellow students, I was startled and I was shaken and I was embarrassed, and, if I were honest, probably I was a little angry! As the years have come and gone since that time (1960), I have occasionally recalled this long- ago incident (when I was a mere teen). When I recall that algebra course (my second day in the class), and when I remember the strange statement from that eccentric teacher (l’d rather be called a cow than maam) – I have had to ‘laugh’ and ‘laugh’!

There has been more than one person who has also ‘laughed’ with me when I have recounted my experience with this ‘military-type teacher’ – the teacher whose voice quickly silenced everyone in her presence, and who, if you disobeyed her voice, she (with the full ‘backing’ of the principal) would ‘put you in the dog house’.

I have to ‘laugh’ now when I think of the powerful (piercing, soul-shattering) voice of this little woman, but, at that long ago time, you would not dare to ‘laugh’ at her commanding and her demanding voice! Another example of ‘implicit humor’.

I can smile now, even laugh, when I recall an experience in my life which, at the time, was certainly not ‘laughable’. The ‘distance’ which the elapse of time brings gives a new perspective to my life! During one of my crisis times (facing me when I was a teenager), I had no reason to laugh! No reason at all!

After I got through this difficult ’emotionally-erupting’ experience (caused by a woman whose face resembled a ‘bull dog’, but who probably wanted a face that resembled a kind shepherd dog) – I say, after I got through this ‘algebra class’ experience, and after I found some type of reconciliation with the ‘harsh teacher’, I found some peace! Now, years later, I can really laugh!

“Biblical Foundation For The Sanctity Of Human Life!”

Table of contents: Let my laughter resound!

The blocks came flying!

Let My Laughter Resound!


After more than a half century, I still can relive that rather dramatic moment, when, as a young teen in junior high (Fountain, Colorado), I sat with a dozen other young teens in a math class. I never was at that time very ‘sharp’ in math, and I have never been very ‘sharp’ since that time in math. I made passing grades, but I certainly was not recognized as a ‘bright student’ (in math or in any other subject). Probably because I did not quickly grasp my required material (in my text books), I customarily (rather boldly) held up my hand (probably more than I should have) to get the teacher’s attention.

The math teacher – a man who was rather ‘forward’ in his personality – was well-liked in the school. He was a respected coach whose players performed to near their potential! I enjoyed this man as my track coach, in spite of the fact that he could be rather ‘demanding’, and he usually was in the ‘face’ of the players. He was the coach that ‘pushed me to perform’ – to ‘go the extra mile’ in running and in preparation for the ‘tough track meets’. We runners worked hard ‘for him’ and for the entire team, and for the honor of our school.

I remember that one time – a few days before the State Track Meet – this coach got into his old jeep, and, on a country road the entire track team of junior high boys (including myself) was told by the coach to run on that country road – with the coach in his jeep behind us. If we boys started slowing our running pace, the coach would simply start honking his horn! In other words, keep running and don’t slow down, for, he told us, we had to be prepared for the state meet (where the competition would be fierce).

The training ‘paid off’, for our team did very well, in a few days, at the State Track Meet! Looking back, after the elapse of more than five decades, I would guess that this beloved (hard-driving) coach probably enjoyed coaching, more than he enjoyed teaching academic subjects. Of course, typically, coaches are required to teach a few academic classes (like math or social studies), as well as coach some sports. Coach Campbell was no exception.

For some reason, in his math class, I could not understand the concept of ‘cubes’. I understood the concept of ‘squares’, but not ‘cubes’. As I recall, I put up my hand to get the teacher’s (coach’s) attention, and I kept asking the same basic question regarding ‘cubes’. Finally, this rather impulsive and ‘in your face’ type coach, lost his patience with me. He was so frustrated that I did not understand a rather simple concept in math.

He had tried to illustrate the concept, by the use of some actual ‘blocks’ (cubes). The visual aid, obviously, was used to ‘make clear’ the mathematical concepts. I was sitting in the back of the small classroom, quite a distance from the teacher’s desk.

The next thing I knew, the frustrated (angry) teacher – who could be quite ‘impulsive’ in his actions – threw some of the wooden objects (cubes) right at me! He said something like: “There, now do you understand?” To be honest, I did not yet understand the meaning of ‘cubes’ (and the formula to figure out ‘cubes’), but I did know that I had ‘pushed’ this teacher/coach too far! I had offended him, I had agitated him, I had exhausted his patience with me!

I obviously was embarrassed that this happened! I was embarrassed, not only for myself, but for my fellow students, and for the teacher himself! He, too, probably was embarrassed for himself, but I don’t recall that he ever apologized to me.

Through the passing years, when I have thought about this simple (isolated) event from my young teen years, I have not felt any resentment towards this coach. In fact, I have gotten a few ‘laughs’ for myself, and I have even (rarely) recalled this event to others, to allow them to get a chuckle from this rather strange event.

I was surprised, obviously, when the blocks were coming through the ‘air’, aimed right at me, but I knew (even then) that I must not be overly-sensitive regarding the embarrassment I felt. I had become a Christian a short time before this incident, and God gave me the ‘grace’ to maintain my respect and my love for this coach.

This coach did so much for me, during the few years that he was my track coach in junior high. He gave me a high goal to reach for – in running. A few years later, when I went to high school, I continued to do well in my ‘running career’. I also did some competitive running in College! Throughout my adult life, I consistently ran for recreation, and I regularly competed in many races that were conducted in our community.

Several times I received first and second place trophies in my age category. I have about a dozen trophies, displayed in my own office. Coach Campbell was the one who got me ‘started’ in my ‘running career’ – a career that has lasted for several decades. I owe him a great debt of gratitude! I hope to give him a huge hug, in heaven! By God’s grace!

Several years ago when I was visiting my old home town (Fountain), I determined to ‘look up’ Coach Campbell. I wanted to go to his front door, and I wanted simply to tell him how much I appreciated him – his positive influence on my life, and his great contribution to me in my ‘running career’.

I wanted to thank him for being a good leader in my life. (Of course, obviously, I would not mention the now ‘laughable’ incident in his math class). I discovered the house where he lived, and I anticipated seeing him, when he came to the front door. When some ‘stranger’ came to the front door, I asked to see Coach Campbell. My heart sank when she simply said: “He is not here. He is dead, He died of a heart attack!”

I greatly respected this great man – this outstanding coach! Yes, it is true that I frustrated him to such a degree, that he felt he needed to throw a few ‘blocks’ at me. Yes, it is true that he ‘drove’ me to the ‘brink of my running endurance’ as he honked and honked his horn at me (and other boys) on that country road.

In spite of his oddities (and he had several oddities), I loved him and I appreciated his desires to help me to grow up and to become a man! His disciplines, aimed at me (and at so many other students) simply proved that he was a caring human being.

I believe that he respected ‘my faith’ in Christ, although I don’t think he had very accurate information regarding the religion of Christianity. As I recall, there was one occasion in which he and I were alone (maybe walking together). In the ‘dim recesses of my mind’, I verily recall a conversation that I had with him, in which he respectfully asked me about my personal faith in God.

His eternal destiny (as is true of everyone) is in the hands of a merciful God. In the end, I believe that God will judge the ‘condition of the heart’, not the ‘accuracy of the head’. God knows and loves!

“Biblical Foundation For The Sanctity Of Human Life!”

Table of contents: Let my laughter resound!