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Who Are You Owin’?

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 BY OWEN HUGHES, Associate Pastor, Oakwood Presbyterian Church

 Who Are You Owin’?

Gratitude, thankfulness, and appreciation do not come naturally to me, but there are so many people to whom I owe so much. People who invested in me, spent time with me, pursued me, and shaped me. Some were intentional, others were unintentional, and still others were just being themselves. So, my upcoming blog posts will be about people who have helped make me the person I am today. People I am “owin’” for making me, well…Owen. My hope is that you will consider the people in your life who have shaped and molded you. People you are owin' for making you who you are and that you will take some time to be thankful for them.

Disclaimer: I’m not a writer nor am I an aspiring writer. So, if my writing is “offensive” either because of structure or grammar or both, then please forgive me, and don’t feel like you have to read this blog. ☺

Mrs. Banning

I am an immigrant. You wouldn’t know that when you meet me. I don’t necessarily look like an immigrant or sound like an immigrant, but I don’t hold American citizenship. I am a “subject of the crown.” I am British, specifically Welsh, and I came to the United States when I was seven years old.

Here’s a fun fact: in the U.K. the date is written DAY/MONTH/YEAR, while in the U.S. the date is written MONTH/DAY/YEAR. This presented a minor problem when my parents registered me for school. Since I was born November 2, 1976, my parents wrote 2/11/1976 on my school paperwork. This put me a grade ahead of where I should have been.

Another fun fact: I had (perhaps still do have) a learning disability. I struggled with reading for most of my academic career and in elementary school, specifically, I took special classes for reading, writing, spelling, etc.

So, you can picture little Owen: corduroy pants, leather sandals, Ringo Starr hair, calling cookies “biscuits” and french fries “chips,” being put in second grade (when I should have been in first), not being able to read, not fitting in, and feeling very lonely.

For four weeks I was in the wrong grade, but those four weeks left a lasting impression on me. The other kids in the class made fun of me, I had no clue what was going on in my studies, I had some degree of culture shock, therefore I hated going to school. I cried most mornings and would do anything to get out of going.

I am not sure how they found out what had happened with the dates, but “the powers that be” eventually put me in the right grade. Unfortunately, by then the damage had been done. I remember the day I went to first grade. There was a piano angled in the corner of the classroom. I crawled behind it…and cried.

Mrs. Banning, the first-grade teacher, let me sit behind that piano for a few minutes at the start of the first couple of days in her class as I adjusted to the new kids, a new classroom, and new lessons. Every morning she would coax me out from behind that piano with a smile and a loving hand. She never scolded, lost her cool, or was impatient with me. The way she won me over, along with all the other kids, was with her love. She taught me an invaluable lesson that I heard articulated years later, “People rarely remember what you do, only a few will remember what you say, but everyone will remember the way you made them feel.”

I don’t remember what Mrs. Banning looked like or really much of what she said. She was a fixture at Whitinsville Christian School, loved by all, and her mission was to make every kid in first grade feel loved. She excelled at completing this mission.

Mrs. Banning shaped me by her love for me. That’s a powerful thing, isn’t it? That love, not might, not power, not force, but love is what has that kind of lasting effect. Mrs. Banning showed me what it means to love the “least of these.” I do remember one thing that Mrs. Banning said, not just how she made me feel. I remember Mrs. Banning telling us over and over in first grade that she loved us because she was first loved by God. In first grade, in a foreign land, I was met with God’s love for me through Mrs. Banning.

I am grateful that God put Mrs. Banning in that classroom for “such a time as this” and I am owin’ Mrs. Banning for teaching and showing me what it means to make people feel loved.

So, the question is…who are you owin’?