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A Love Letter

He sent his old elementary school gym teacher a love letter. Faded memories, laid out in fresh ink, and detailing events that had forged and formed him. He wanted his old gym teacher to know.

The playground and gymnasium were his classroom where competition was taught and mettle tested. The school bell whistle that hung around his neck signaled the start and finish of every exercise, and the sporty sneakers he wore and chiseled profile he cut in his blue uniform made it clear that this was not math or science, but there would still be tests. The four laps around the field were timed with a silver stop-watch and the gym teacher shouted the times out so the running, stumbling class could hear. Bobby Toupin’s belly jiggled out from under his shirt and his arms dog-paddled the air when he ran, so Bobby quit running, feeling out of his field. The mile was impossible, but the gym teacher told Bobby he had to finish, even if he was the last one walking. The gym teacher recorded our times and scores on his clipboard, then smartly tucked the pencil behind his ear as he snapped us to attention for the next planned lesson. Distance between the orange and white beaded jump ropes, laid out in parallel lines on the grass, were incrementally and unforgivingly increased, and a standing broad jump was required. Donny Dempsey, with one leg shorter than the other and its weighted, thick-soled shoe dragging him down, was required to lumber and pull his way across the ever increasing (but slightly adjusted and still attainable) divide. The towering, thick braided rope that hung from the gymnasium ceiling loomed over us from kindergarten through 6th grade, but climbing techniques were taught and 3 legitimate attempts during the last week of our final year in school were required. Don’t stop, hand over hand, wrap that rope between your feet, and when you get up there, keep your eyes up and reach for the cleat! The standards of the Presidential Council on Physical Fitness were applied, competition was demanded, and winners were awarded and posted in the lobby for all to see. Don’t compare yourself to the person next to you. Use your stomach, not your back, and try to do more sit-ups on your 3rd try than your 2nd! The gym teacher did his part to keep us kids in America moving. The gym teacher included and looked out for the weak and timid. The gym teacher did not discriminate or favor, nor did he coddle or enable. The gym teacher’s commands echoed through the halls but his kindness ruled. The gym teacher taught us that participation counted as much as the final score. The gym teacher taught us that strength and determination were a measure to be measured.. The gym teacher taught us the value of exercise and being fit. The gym teacher taught us that to keep trying was winning.

He wrote his old gym teacher a love letter because he wanted him to know that everything he did for them still mattered.

Who deserves your love letter and why haven’t you written it?


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