Thursday, June 4, 2009
Her name was Louise Wyatt. Never married. Head of the London Central Secondary School English Department. No children. But a large moving cavalcade of young people drawn into her interest, time, attention and love.
One would see her shuffling between classes. Arms full of books. Hair bun slightly askew. Spectacles slipped low on the nose. Her classic "hunkering" posture. But if you had a question or a concern, all would stop and the time would be yours.
My mother-in-law Betty Hourd told of how Louise had made her first few weeks of supply-teaching bearable with the class "straight from hell". Miss Wyatt would focus those piercing eyes on Betty, and would see, and would understand everything. Betty finally got the better of that class and came to enjoy teaching. It was as my supply teacher that I first met Betty before starting to date Hilary.
Years later Betty and Louise would share a room at Parkwood Senior's Residence. Betty for a short period of convalescence. Louse until her final days. Always books to be read and reviewed in stimulating conversation.
I also recall Miss Wyatt from Robinson United Church where she would usually sit with Eloise Cotton, an amazingly upbeat widow who lived around the corner from my parents, and who visited daily their next-door neighbour Myrtle McMaster. If ever I enjoyed a conversation with any of these elderly women, I felt that they had an honest interest in my thoughts and well-being, almost unparalleled in my experience.
Robinson United did not show me much of the "Roman Road" of the Gospel, but I was shown unselfishness and true friendship with individuals well beyond my years, individuals who attended and honoured the seasons of Christian celebration.
From these women, and particularly from Hunker Wyatt, I learned something about the extraordinary value of stopping, establishing eye contact, listening long and hard and demonstrating simply the affirmation of another human being. We all need this from true neighbours. Do we still have the time?
Perhaps this testimony of the old English school-mistress will provoke someone, somewhere to follow suit. Louise, thank you.