Many decades ago, I was a young girl in a rural school in New Zealand.
It was a tough community – one of the most multicultural societies in the country. We had white kids, Maori kids, Chinese kids, Hindu kids, poor kids and rich kids.
All shades of grey and all manner of socio-economic classes threaded into those culturally diverse subsets.
We were rich, poor, middle class, loved, unloved and neglected and we all sat down in the same classroom and were taught by the same man. A man who, to this day, over 5 decades later, stands out to me as one of the most nonjudgmental, equal-opportunity people I have ever met. My Headmaster.
He had a difficult time of it, balancing our education with the sensitive issues that we now call “cultural differences“, and his desire to provide us with an equal learning path and also with an equal chance to grow our minds, our critical thinking and our ability to question opposing beliefs without criticism or abusive words.
My Headmaster taught me and my fellow classmates, maybe 50 of us, to be RESPECTFUL of our differences, our inherent INDIVUALITIES and our wonderful opportunity to learn and grasp KNOWLEDGE.
He taught us about verbs, adverbs, nouns, adjectives, pronouns, non-possessive pronouns and all manner of geographical, historical and scientific facts. He taught us to add, subtract, multiply, divide and to calculate things like angles, triangles and how to UNDERSTAND our world, our planet and our past, present and future.
To me as a young woman, my Headmaster was a god. A font of knowledge and a person who possessed such an enormous brain that he was on a pedestal of respect that was so high, few people could come close and seldom have I seen any approach him.
My father, of course, was superior to my Headmaster. He was my father and, as such, was always on a higher pedestal. Throughout my adult life, there have been few, if any, men, who have won my respect like my late Dad and my Headmaster – probably only President Trump.
Some years ago, I was fortunate and privileged enough to connect with my Headmaster, now 90 years old.
I was so grateful to be in a position to thank him for what he had taught me and how, despite my many poor decisions in life, his education in those early years of my life made me the resilient and caring person I am today.
He did not teach me to avoid errors in judgement, bad decisions or mistakes, or indeed make me impervious to tragic miscalculations. I have had my fair share of those.
But he did TEACH me how to pick myself up and start again. For that, I will always be grateful.
He did not teach me how to make the world a better place. But he did teach me to not participate in bringing the world down in order to get some sense of self-gratification.
In short, he taught me how to be responsible for my own actions and to be accountable when I am wrong and how to always question when I am unsure. To never accept blindly and allow someone else to manipulate MY thinking.
Of late, my Headmaster has asked me to call him by his first name.
I find it so hard. It seems somehow disrespectful. To me, it is almost a betrayal to the man that I hold in such high regard.
I have been told that I am actually disrespecting him by refusing to address him as a friend. Yet perhaps, after all these years, I should address him as a friend?
After all, this man that I admire so much, is my friend. That I hold him in such reverence is testimony to having earned HIS request that I call him by his first name.
Somehow, I am still despite my 64 years, in awe of this 90-year-old man and want to keep him on a pedestal?
After all, the moment I refer to him by his first name, he ceases to be a god-figure and becomes a human being.
Recently, I watched a rally in America where President Trump lamented the fact that friends no longer call him Donald. They address him as Mr President. He said that he wished that his old friends would call him Donald.
In many respects, I am much like these folk. When you respect someone so much and hold them in such high regard, it is difficult to let go of that idolatrous way of thinking and accept them as human beings, just like you.
My Headmaster is, in my child-like mind, a demi-god. In my adult mind, he was and still is a man who changed my life.
You know who you are.