Friday, 7 August 2009

Influence of teachers - in memory of Heidi (Persendt) Japhta

I have been asked on occasion to give an inspirational talk to learners at award functions or graduations. The most memorable, and first, of these was for me when I was asked to deliver a speech at the Academic Awards of Dawid Bezuidenhout Secondary School My wife was also a teacher at the school, (and I had finished my schooling there - under the late Heidi Japtha, nee Persendt) and had encouraged me to accept this honour. The following is the gist of the speech I gave:

My mother was music and accounting teacher and my wife is an accounting and information sciences teacher. Many of the important people in my life were school teachers.

One of the most important lessons I learnt from a teacher was during my Standard 6 (Grade 7) year when I was 14 years old. Mr. McKelvin was my Geography teacher and till today, I can still distinguish the differences in clouds because he made us lay on our back in the middle of the playground and then pointed out the various types. This was his lesson about life:

“Sometime we find ourselves in a conversation and say something really stupid. Something like rubber is made from oil (rather than from a tree). Now a week or two later, we find ourselves among the same group of people. We remember the mistake we made so we are too frightened to say anything. So we miss the opportunity to participate because of our previous mistake.

Well, you are wrong. The other people also made mistakes, and they are too busy remembering their own mistakes to remember yours!”

This has made me overcome one of the problems I believe we all have, admitting when we have made mistakes – and more importantly learning to laugh at ourselves.

The next life lesson I remember from a teacher was about “asking God for something”. I had a successful career, happy family and most everything money could buy. During this time I prayed to God to help me establish my own business. But, instead of God answering my prayers, I found myself losing some of the wonderful things I had. One of my mentors saw how dejected I was and asked, “what’s the matter?” Upon hearing my story, he replied, “Oh, Milton. God is just making space in your hands for the next present. Your hands were just too full!”

So whenever I face adversity and see my possessions becoming less, I know it is God making more space for that big gift he has prepared for me!