Sunday, February 14, 2016


I am pretty sure it happened when I was in the 6th grade at Lincoln Elementary School in Long Beach, California. Then again, since that was the year I had Mister Beeson as a teacher and he was the second person on my education trail who became part of my mentorship which led to me having a lifelong career as a teacher, I place most of the meaningful experiences that happened during the three years at that school, as having taken place during my 6th grade year.

Anyway, about midway through the second month of the school year a ‘new kid’ joined our class. It was immediately clear that he intended to become the alpha male of our class. (We never used Alpha Male in those days – but it fits, so I will use it.) Somehow, even though I have never been known for being large of stature, I was elected to put him in his place. Since he had red hair, and everyone knows that redheads are quick tempered and tough, I should have immediately declined the honor bestowed upon me. However, since the voting had been unanimous and no one else had been nominated, I accepted the gauntlet. I have often wondered over the years whether there was a hidden message from my classmates about my assertive personality when they gave me the class lance.

The time and place was set for the lesson to be taught to the ‘new red head kid. We would meet between the two temporary buildings right after school. Somehow, as it often does, the word must have been passed, because the group gathered between the buildings was significantly larger than the students in Mister Beeson’s class.

We put up our dukes and I remember a pop followed by a second pop. The first blow was to my gut and the second to the left side of my head. My first real move was to put him in a head lock and we fell to the ground. My second move was to pray that this unsanctioned afterschool activity would soon be discovered by a teacher. My prayer was answered and we were immediately taken to the Principal’s office.

A few of the passages that I passed through that day were:

The ‘new red head kid’ became my best friend – everyone needs a tough buddy to hang out with.

I learned that being the hall monitor wasn't a privilege, but a punishment.

I became a permanent member of the ‘lover rather than a fighter’ society.

The ‘new red head kid’ moved before the next fall when I entered Washington Junior High School and teachers patrol the halls in junior high rather than students. The only permanent part of my passage learning that day in the 6th grade was my membership in the ‘lover rather than a fighter’ society.

My membership in this new society paid very quick dividends. It could have been because she was the only girl shorter than I was in the 6th grade or that she could do ballerina poses or that she informed me that we were boy and girl friends; but whatever the cause, she was the first girl I bought something besides a punch out valentine or a sweetheart piece of candy for on Valentine’s Day. Her name was Lois Ann Pickering. Remembering her name is another mark on the ledger titled, ‘we always remember the first one.’

Now that more than six decades have flowed down my stream of life, I am often reminded how grateful I am for the passage which was forced upon me by that ‘new red head kid’ in the 6th grade.

Among the things which come to mind as I write this Thought for Valentine’s Day Sabbath:

I am grateful that never again in my life did I have to put a head lock on someone and pray for deliverance.

I am grateful that even though I was taught the ‘Spirit of the Bayonet’ in the Army, my nature has always yearned towards peace and love and a distain for war and violence.

I am grateful for the years I spent in Colombia where I learned that Valentine’s Day could be stretched into an entire month of Love and Friendship.

I am grateful for a career which allowed me to spend my days learning and teaching about the universal kinship of mankind and how our Savior wants us to have Love one toward another.

I am grateful for the path through the many Valentine’s Days which led me to my Eternal Companion and Dearest Friend – Kathleen.

I pray continually that mankind’s hearts will be turned from their tendencies toward hateful words and actions and toward membership in the ‘Lovers rather than Fighters’ Society.

I pray that the spirit which is often prevalent on Valentine’s Day will become infectious and contaminate us all, every day, every week, every month and every year.

I am sure you are all wondering about whether I left the arena between the two temporary buildings on the grounds of Lincoln Elementary School in Long Beach, California, with a black eye or not. The answer is yes. The cure my mother administered – was giving me a bag of Birds Eye frozen peas to hold on my eye for the rest of the day. My black eye actually became another reason the short little ballerina started to pay some attention to me.

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