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The H3O/Art of Life Blog

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"Our Daily Blog" #17

Updated: Jun 5, 2020

"Be the One" Part One

By Reverend Denise Tracy

"In a world where we can be anything, be kind.”  Mr Rogers

"Spread love everywhere you go: first of all in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbor…Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting."

Mother Theresa

I spent much of the 7th-grade dealing with a severe and life- threatening kidney illness, much of the time in the hospital. My medication dried out my lips, so I licked them and, as a result, I had a big red chapped ring around them. My illness was expensive so, my parents needed to save money. An “On Sale” pair of bright blue tear- drop lenses, with rhinestones in the corners, were my eyeglasses. I was embarrassed by both my red mouth and my blue eye- glasses.

My 8th- Grade teacher was a woman named Mrs. Keppel. In class I sat low in my chair. I hid behind my books. I did not ask questions. One day after class, Mrs. Keppel asked me to come back at the end of the day. I thought I was in trouble and dreaded having to tell my parents what I had done wrong. My Mother and Father were old- school:"Get in trouble at school, twice in trouble at home. "I had heard this phrase many times and I had avoided trouble because my parents had enough on their plates with my illness.

So, with a heavy heart, I went into Mrs Keppel's room. I sat in the chair next to her desk and waited in fear. "Why don't you speak up in class?, she asked. You have many ideas and I would like to hear them." I was stunned.  I wasn't in trouble; she wanted to hear my ideas.   

Mrs Keppel had about 30 plants across a ledge in the window of her room. She asked me to stay after school once a week to water, prune, and care for them. While we gardened each week, we talked. She listened to me. She gave me the best present I have ever received-- a tube of chapstick.  She explained how it could help me with my chapped lips. To this day, I have chapstick in my pockets, my purses, my desk drawer, and in my car.

Mrs Keppel gave confidence to an awkward girl. At the end of my 8th grade year, she encouraged me to enter a public-speaking contest. I did not win. However, she told me, "You did not project beyond the second row. You will do better next year." I did. In the 9th grade, I won that contest. Mrs. Keppel gave me both the velvet and the sandpaper of good relationships. Mrs. Keppel changed my life forever.

When her husband was appointed to the Kennedy Administration's Education Department, which required that she move to Washington D.C., she gave me a Chinese Jade plant which we had cared for together. A decade later, when I went to Theological School to pursue my degree in Ministry, I took that plant with me as a witness to Mrs Keppel's faith in me. 

I never saw Mrs Keppel again. But, I was changed by her respect as well as by her nurturing faith in me. I have tried to see people I work with in the same way that Mrs. Keppel saw people who need nurture.  

(To read part 2 click here)

Below, please enjoy "Spiritual Matters-Sister in Ministry, on the "Omni-U Presents: The H3O/Art of Life" television show featuring Omni-U Faculty member and today's blog writer, Reverend Denise Tracy.


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1 Comment

Evonne F Blakey
Jun 04, 2020

Rev. Denise Tracey’s article was very inspirational and motivating.


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