A teacher's reward

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

I teach at a major university. A student came to my office shortly after the first class meeting of the spring term. She appeared poised and confident. Her first question was, "How do I get an A in your class?"

Then she continued with a string of questions, which had to have come from a self-help book on how to succeed in college. Later she asked if I put a copy of the textbook for the course in the reserve book room of the library. I said yes, but suggested that it would be best for her to have her own copy. She explained how she was trying to balance her financial aid and other resources, and would not be able to purchase the text for a couple of weeks. The book cost about $100.

I reached over to my bookshelf for a copy of the textbook and gave it to her. She promised to return it as soon as she could buy her own copy. But I said, "No, keep it. It is yours. Think of it as a scholarship." She lost her composure, broke down crying, and hurried out of the room.

I didn't see her during the next few class meetings, because the class is large (about 300 students).

Then, under my office door, I found a thank-you note, which read, in part: "Your giving me a textbook was a major ordeal in my life. After leaving your office, I called home, and their response was, 'What's wrong?' I explained that I was crying because something had gone right. Every once in a while we get to see God in our experiences with people's genuine kindness."

I could tell that she faced many difficulties, including financial ones, and was trying to solve them through prayer. I never did talk to her again, but I wondered if her prayer might have echoed the Psalmist when he cried to God in his affliction: "Hear me, O Lord; for thy lovingkindness is good: turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies" (Ps. 69:16).

I believe her visit to my office was an answer to her prayers. Not only was her need for a textbook supplied. But even more significant was the confidence she had that God would see her through the challenges of the new term.

It was evident that this experience was a turning point that gave her a glimpse of God's great love for her.

The story does not end there. Her supply in turn supplied me.

I have been teaching for 24 years. Teaching is rewarding, but sometimes I get "teacher burnout." Unmotivated students, grade complaints, academic dishonesty, bureaucracy, less pay than I could earn in the commercial market, sometimes seem so burdensome that they outweigh the rich rewards of teaching. And, at the beginning of that term, I'd felt more burned out than rewarded.

I'd been praying along the lines of the Psalmist, acknowledging God's lovingkindness and crying for a sign of His mercy that I shouldn't just put in for retirement. The student's visit and note answered my prayer. Included in the note was a little magnet that said: "The best teachers teach from the heart, not from the book."

Just as it was a turning point for the student, so it was for me. The note and quote reminded me why I teach. Not to impress others with much book learning, but to fulfill a heartfelt desire to see and express the love of God.

I was placed in that position to bear witness to the true nature of every individual in the university environment - students, parents, faculty, staff, administrators - as people motivated by everactive Life to express the infinite intelligence of Mind; cared for by Love and satisfied in Soul; held in the absolute integrity of Truth; guided and governed by divine Principle; always supplied by inexhaustible Spirit.

Now, the spring term proved no different in terms of student and administrative issues that had to be faced, but I felt a renewed commitment and confidence that this clearer vision would meet the needs. And it did.

The rich in spirit help the poor
in one grand brotherhood,
all having the same Principle,
or Father; and blessed is that man
who seeth his brother's need and supplieth it, seeking his own
in another's good.
Mary Baker Eddy
(founder of the Monitor)

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