The Gift of a Teacher

The Gift of a Teacher

PEACE POST … Just in time to for Back to School
– a story about an AMAZING teacher and the student she helped find his voice.

Celebrating expressions of Peace
(formerly ‘ThreeLinesAndACircle.com’)

It took 20 years for this author to reunite with the teacher who changed his life

By:  Vanessa Romo / GPB/PBS/NPR

Talk about a storybook ending.

Author Jamil Jan Kochai searched for more than a decade for Susan Lung — the second-grade teacher who had changed his life over 20 years earlier. And on Saturday night, in one of those “life is better than fiction” twists, the two were finally reunited at one of his book-reading events.

“I pretty much learned how to read and write in English because of her, and if it wasn’t for Mrs. Lung, I don’t know what would have happened to me,” Kochai, who still finds it difficult to call his former teacher by her first name, told NPR.

“I feel like everything that I’ve done up to this point — all the success that I’ve had, the fact that I’m a novelist today — it all started with Mrs. Lung all the way back in 1999, when I was 7 years old,” he added.

Kochai is the author of 99 Nights in Logar, a finalist for the Pen/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel. He is currently promoting his second book, The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories. His work has been published and praised in many of the nation’s most esteemed publications. But for much of his early life, he could hardly speak English.

The writer was born in a refugee camp for Afghans in Peshawar, Pakistan, and his family moved to California when he was just a year old. At home, they spoke mostly Pashto and some Farsi, so by the time he reached first grade, Kochai said, he was at a total loss.

As a result, he said, “I associated school and learning with punishment and with exclusion.”

He fell further behind during the summer of 1999, when the family spent several months in Afghanistan.

“I fell in love with my parents’ home village in Logar, but pretty much everything that I learned in first grade, I ended up forgetting by the time the summer was over,” Kochai explained.

 

The magic of Mrs. Lung — and all the devoted teachers out there

Then came Mrs. Lung, who quickly realized that Kochai was deeply struggling at Alyce Norman Elementary School, both academically and socially.

“I could see he was sharp as a tack, but it was hard for him,” Lung told NPR.

“Not only did he have to deal with forgetting all the English that he knew, but he had to deal with the kids who couldn’t understand him.”

The two got to work, meeting for one-on-one lessons nearly every day after school. By the end of the school year, Kochai said, he was winning reading-comprehension competitions.

Thinking back on the experience, Lung said it’s not an especially unique situation.

“There are many thousands of teachers doing the same thing all over, and they’re doing it for the love of it. Not for any kind of kudos but because we have a passion for it,” she said.

Lung added: “It’s just incredible to see their literacy grow by leaps and bounds. To see when they’re able to communicate with their little friends, which I think is a big part of learning English or any other language.”

 

The problem with not being on a first-name basis with your elementary school teachers

Lung and Kochai lost touch at the end of their year together. Kochai’s father got a job in another city and the boy moved on, albeit with a voracious new love of reading and writing. By the time he reached high school, Kochai’s parents encouraged him to find his former teacher to thank her. But despite his efforts, he failed to track her down.

“Part of it was that I didn’t know her first name. She was always just Mrs. Lung to me, so when I called places to ask about her, they couldn’t find any records of her,” he said, laughing.

But Kochai kept trying through college and afterward. Still, he came up empty.

Then, while promoting his first novel, he wrote an essay for Literary Hub magazine touching on the transformative impact that Lung had on his life. Lung’s neurosurgeon happened to read it, and during her next visit, the physician asked the now-retired educator, “Did you ever teach at Alyce Norman Elementary School?”

It was Lung’s husband who ultimately found Kochai. “He found me on Facebook and reached out to me out of the blue,” Kochai said.

They made plans for a phone call that same night.

“I finally got the chance after all these years to express to her how much I still thought of her and how much she meant to me,” Kochai said, adding that he also managed to get both of his parents on the call. “She was just the same Mrs. Lung. Just as sweet and kind and warm as ever. And we were all tearing up. It was a really emotional, lovely night,” he said.

It was the height of the coronavirus pandemic, and they promised to meet in person as soon as things returned to normal. But as life does, Kochai said, one thing after another seemed to get in the way, and the reunion never materialized.

 

Reunited and it feels so good

“Again, it was my husband who had the idea, to go to the reading on Saturday,” Lung said.

Lung’s husband had seen a Facebook post about Kochai’s new book and suggested they make the drive to a reading in Davis, California.

“I had no idea they were going to be there,” Kochai said, sounding absolutely delighted.

“I don’t know how I didn’t see her before, but Mrs. Lung was sitting in the front row. I mean, it had been 20 to 22 years since the last time I’d seen her,” he reasoned.

They hugged and he gushed, and she asked him to sign her copy of his first novel.

“And I got to leave a little note for her explaining how much she meant to me. And it was a really lovely evening,” Kochai added.

They exchanged numbers again, and now they’ve made a new plan. “We’re going to have a big family dinner next week!” Kochai said.

In the meantime, Lung has some homework: “I am part of the way through his first book and I just got his second book at the reading, so I’ll be reading that when I’m finished.”

be kind . be grace . help others

be PEACE

The Magic of a Hug

The Magic of a Hug

Stroke victim regains the power of giving hugs

CBS Sunday Morning

After a massive stroke eight years ago, Kevin Eubanks, of Paragould, Ark., lost the ability to use his left arm – and he has missed hugging with both arms ever since. Now, four occupational therapy students at Arkansas State University have gotten together to invent a piece of adaptive equipment to allow Eubanks to hug his grandchildren again.

Happy Father’s Day!

be kind . be grace . be there for each other

be PEACE

Free Mom Hugs

Free Mom Hugs

Free Mom Hugs is a beautiful organization started by one amazing Mama with the goal of supporting her son.  From that initial mission she has created a movement that has expanded across the nation and is helping bring love, peace and support to many people.

 

Sara Cunningham began her journey of becoming an advocate of the LGBTQIA+ community through her relationship with her gay son. She founded Free Mom Hugs in 2014 and since that time many parents and allies across the country joined the movement to accept, love and support the LGBTQIA community.  Free Mom Hugs became an established 501(c)(3) non profit organization in 2018 to fight for human rights for all.

Click below to support their efforts.  Oh- and if you’re a hugger be sure to order one of their awesome shirts to wear with PRIDE and help spread the love.  

Here’s one more inspiring video 🙂

Be kind . be grace . support each other

be PEACE

80 year old man walks through blizzard to rescue 3 cars of people

80 year old man walks through blizzard to rescue 3 cars of people

Sask. woman survives 14-hour ordeal in swirling blizzard with help from nearby stranger

By: Florence Hwang – CBC News

Shannon St. Onge found herself in the thick of a blizzard on Monday evening, lost on a Saskatchewan road and peering out her rolled-down window for a glimpse of the road. 

With a little luck — and the help of a stranger in Vancouver who saw a Facebook post — she and six others were saved by an 80-year-old retiree who walked through the whirling snow to help them. 

“Once we arrived to [his] house, and I parked the car, I got out and jumped into his arms and gave him a great big bear hug,” she said. “I was sobbing with gratitude, I was so grateful.”   

Monday started as an ordinary day for St. Onge, who lives in Pense, Sask. She drove the approximately 25 kilometres east into Regina for work.

“I needed to go into the office to sign a cheque. I thought it wouldn’t take very long,” said St. Onge, who is the director of finance with First Nations University of Canada.

She kept an eye on highway conditions throughout the day, so she knew about the forecasted blizzard, but thought she could make it. Without giving it much thought, she filled up her car, picked up a new phone charger and bought some pizza for her kids’ dinner. Those actions would help her get through a 14-hour ordeal in the whiteout storm.

She took a dirt road because she thought it would be better for the winter driving conditions, but whiteout conditions left her confused and lost.

She drove at a snail’s pace with her window rolled down, using the edge of the road as her guide. After a while she realized she was lost.

“There was no visibility, and there was no way I was going any further, because it would have been far too dangerous.” 

She pulled over and called 911. The operator suggested she wait the storm out, because she was warm and parked with a full tank of gas.

“Would the gas tank last until morning? What if I was hit by another vehicle? What if I fell asleep and the tailpipe was blocked? What if I didn’t make it home at all?” she wondered, according to a later Facebook post.

St. Onge recomposed herself and went into problem-solving mode. She could make out a sign that said “Bouvier Lane,” giving her some sense of where she was. She got the idea to pin her location on Google maps.

She posted her location on the Pense community Facebook page. Community members started guessing at where she was located. One man — who happened to be originally from Pense, but now lives in Vancouver — figured out her location. 

“He private messaged me and said, ‘I know that family. Send me your phone number and I’ll contact their son,'” St. Onge said. 

Andre Bouvier Sr. was doing some genealogy research when he got the call about St. Onge’s plea for help. He decided to help her out, despite his wife’s concern for his well-being heading out in the storm.

The 80-year-old retiree tried to start his tractor, but it was dead. 

He bundled up, grabbed an LED flashlight and walked about half a kilometre into the raging storm to search for St. Onge’s car. He knew he could walk to where she was as long as he stayed on the road.

“The worst part was the wind. Halfway there, I had to put my mitts in front of my eyes,” he said.

To Bouvier’s surprise, he found two other vehicles with people who also needed help stranded alongside St. Onge.

He led the seven stranded people back to his home and welcomed them in for the evening. 

“They fed us, laughed with us, bonded with us, and gave us blankets, pillows and a warm place to rest our eyes for a few hours,” said St. Onge. 

At 5:00 a.m. CST,  Bouvier plowed his driveway for his guests. By 5:30 a.m., the motorists were back on the road, despite sub-par conditions.

St. Onge has made new friends through this ordeal. Bouvier became a hero overnight. His son and daughter shared a video St. Onge’s made about the ordeal and it went viral.

Bouvier didn’t want much credit for his efforts for a stranger in need.

“Everybody would have done the same thing,” he said. “You don’t think about it, you just do it.”

be kind . be grace . help one another

be PEACE

Peaceful Words for Shelter Dogs

Peaceful Words for Shelter Dogs

This 11-year-old is helping hard-to-place dogs in shelters get attention — and find homes

By Cathy Free / Washington Post

Evan Bisnauth admits he doesn’t always have the most attentive audience when he reads books aloud to shelter dogs at Animal Care Centers of NYC: There are yowls and barks, and sometimes, a dog will fall asleep on its back with its legs in the air. 

“That’s when I know they’re really happy and relaxed,” said Evan, 11. 

It was the summer of 2019 when Evan’s mom, Amanda Persaud, heard about Books With Boroughbreds, an Animal Care Center program that encourages children to enhance their reading skills by reading to abandoned dogs. She took the bus with her son the following weekend from their home in the Bronx to the shelter in Manhattan.

“I spent five hours reading to every dog on the first day,” said Evan, who is now in sixth grade. “After that, I wanted to go every weekend.”

“I’d tell them at the end of the story, ‘Don’t give up — I have a lot of hope for you and I know you’ll get adopted,’ ” Evan said.

When the coronavirus pandemic put his Saturday visits on hold last year, Evan decided to start a Facebook page, EB and the Pets, where he could post short videos he’d made of dogs that needed homes. 

Even if he couldn’t read to the dogs, perhaps he could help them to get adopted if he told their stories, he said.

The shelter supplied Evan with photos of dogs that were most in need of adoption and he got to work making videos with help from an app. The most recent one on his page is a video a shelter made for Myna, a 9-year-old black and white dog with some medical issues. 

He also made a video for Marco, a pup in need of an emergency adoption. 

“Marco is hoping for a helping hands and holding on to the dream that someone will give him a second chance,” he wrote in the post that accompanied an animated video of him interviewing the dog. “He’s scared and losing faith and will need someone to continue with training at a slow but steady pace,” Evan continued. “He requires an adult only single dog home. Please click the link in the bio to learn more and share his story!” 

Another video that featured a dog named Freddy received nearly 2,000 views after it was shared by several pet adoption charities.

“He is social, friendly and has engaging conversations that will make you want to know all about him,” wrote Evan. “[Freddy] is charming and quiet — he is a lover of human and cats and is looking to make his life all about you.” 

All of the dogs featured by Evan quickly find new homes or are picked up by other animal rescue organizations, his mom noted. 

“Either way, they get a second chance,” said Persaud, 39. “Evan tries to never let them down.” 

Evan was honored last month as ASPCA’s Kid of the Year — an award that he hopes might inspire other people his age to help shelter animals in their own communities.

“Helping dogs has brought me a lot of happiness,” he said. “If everybody would read to dogs and try to get them adopted, think how much difference that would make in the world.”

Adoptions of shelter animals increased during the pandemic as more people stayed home, and in some cities, there was actually a shortage of adoptable dogs for a time. Some 90 percent of dogs adopted during the pandemic have remained in their adoptive homes. 

But there is still an abundance of dogs in shelters waiting to be adopted across the country. The most recent numbers from the ASPCA, from 2019, show at the time there were 3.1 million dogs living in shelters across the United States.

Evan’s crusade to help dogs in New York City has helped raise awareness and make older or unsociable dogs more adoptable, said Risa Weinstock, president and CEO of Animal Care Center.

“It’s remarkable to see the calming effect his reading has on each dog,” Weinstock said. “The dogs can sense that he’s there just for them, and there is a visible reduction in their stress level.” 

“Evan’s dedication as a junior volunteer has given hundreds of dogs a taste of what it would be like to live in a home curled up with a good book and a best friend,” she added.

Persaud said that she and her husband, Edward Bisnauth, noticed Evan had a special knack for communicating with dogs at a young age. He would snuggle next to the family’s pets and practice his reading skills in soft and soothing tones, she said.

“When he started reading to the dogs at the shelter, I noticed that he’d make the effort to find out which dogs needed the most help,” said Evan’s mom. 

“He’s found something that he loves and he’s very dedicated to what he’s doing,” she added. “As a parent, I find that really admirable. The only problem is that he now wishes he could bring all of the dogs home.”

Evan said he knows that isn’t possible, so he’s aiming for the next best thing.

“Someday, I want to have my own animal rescue and I’ll take in every dog I find that needs help,” he said.

“I’m still going to read books to them,” he added. “Every single one.”

be kind . be grace . be compassion

be PEACE

Subscribe

What's NEW, Fun Stuff

& Peace Posts

Whoohoooo! You've successfully subscribed!