“You should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15)

Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless. — Bl. Teresa of Calcutta

One of my daughters loves to share with me “pay it forward” videos of people who are the beneficiaries of someone’s kindness and then go on to do someone else a good turn. She asked me if I remembered anyone in my past whose kindness inspired me to be kind. Of course, there are so many people I could name, but what immediately came to mind was a tutor I had in 7th grade — “Mr. Wallace.”

I had flunked out of 7th grade and had to repeat it at a different school. It was a dark time in my life, and I had really lost a sense of confidence in my ability to succeed. I hated school. I remember very well the first day I sat with him. He had curly brown hair and was wearing a kind smile on his face. He said, as I recall: “My job is to help you see how much you have to offer the world and show you that you’re much smarter than you think you are.” I remember this because I never expected it to come out of a teacher’s mouth and it seemed so outrageous. Offer the world? Smart? Week after week, month after month, year after year — for three years — we met and went over homework, reading skills, table manners, social skills, handling disappointment, and he often talked about my favorite subject at the time: weather. He was interested because I was. He planted a seed of confidence in me that grew, and I never forgot him. When I encountered Jesus Christ while I was in college, that seed exploded into a tree as my mind, for the first time, opened with a hunger for knowledge of everything.

Four years ago I decided to look him up. It took me weeks of detective work, but I found him. Married with kids and grandkids, living in Pennsylvania. I wrote him a letter to express my gratitude and share with him where I had gone in life. He wrote me back a simple response: “Tom, I am appreciative for your kindness in making the effort to tell me this. I vaguely remember you, but I’m old now. I am happy for your successes and am glad to know I played a small part. Those are the things make the hard times along the way meaningful.”

Who are your Mr. Wallaces?

Below are the videos my daughter, and a seminarian, shared with me that I found most inspiring.

2 comments on ““You should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15)

  1. Having worked with the homeless for quite a while now, all I can say to you, Brother Tom is: “Amen. Amen. Amen!” Stunningly beautiful post, my friend. Thanks for the great message.

  2. nos says:

    I went to school with a bunch of “wallace boys zzz” one in particular I knew very well indeed,h e was nothing like your Mr. Wallace. His brothers however were so like your Mr Wallace, great guys all …,,, I keep the prodigal brother in my prayers often… dr. Kneel the first video made me weep from a depth of experience I give profound thanks for … do I wish otherwise yes some days I do… more days however I pray “JESUS I trust in you… thank you thomas for your obedient humble heart …

    D.D. you story teller you… we need your “handle” or what ever you techno geeks call it. love nos.

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