Friday, November 18, 2011

Our pal taught us gratitude

Recently, a candidate endorsed “believing in sound fiscal principals.”  All principals  (school administrators) should be fiscally sound, especially when spending school money.  But everyone—including principals—should believe in sound fiscal principles (ethical standards.)
Spell check doesn’t help with these words. Remember: “The principal is our pal because he teaches honest principles.”
I was too busy trying stay out of his office to think of my grade school principal as a pal.  But Darrell Moss was a pal to hundreds of students in Teton City and Wilford, Idaho.
On the first day of school, Mr. Moss gathered grades one through eight in the gym for an assembly. First he taught us to sing, in rounds, with gusto: “Sweetly sings the donkey, at the break of day. If you do not feed him, this is what he’ll say: ‘Hee-haw, hee-haw, hee-haw.”  Braying like a donkey made bullies and bullied, dimwits and teacher’s pets laugh together happily.  Our pal understood the power of music.
Then he reminded us to use our time wisely, quoting Horace Mann: "Lost, yesterday, somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minutes. No reward is offered, for they are gone forever." 
My siblings and I, grousing about the burdens of school, recited this quote in deep-voiced, dramatic parody of Mr. Moss.  We thought we were funny.
Yet now, when I spend too much time on Facebook or watching ridiculous movies, I think of the golden hours and diamond minutes I’ve wasted. 
Finally, Mr. Moss shared this poem. Internet sources attribute it to Og Mandino (adapted from original by Red Foley) or to that most famous poet, “Unknown.”

Today, upon a bus, I saw a lovely girl with golden hair,
I envied her. . . she seemed so gay. . . and wished I were so fair.
When suddenly she rose to leave, I saw her hobble down the aisle.
She had one leg and wore a crutch; but as she passed. . . a smile!
Lord, forgive me when I whine,
I have two legs.  The world is mine!

I stopped to buy some candy.  The lad who sold it had such charm.
I talked with him.  He seemed so glad.  If I were late, t'would do no harm.
And as I left, he said to me, "I thank you.  You have been so kind.
It's nice to talk with folks like you.  You see," he said, "I'm blind."
Lord, forgive me when I whine.
I have two eyes.  The world is mine.

Later while walking down the street, I saw a child with eyes of blue.
He stood and watched the others play.  I stopped a moment.
When I said, "Why don't you join the others, Dear?"
He looked ahead without a word, and then I knew he could not hear.
Lord, forgive me when I whine.
I have two ears. The world is mine.

With feet to take me where I'd go, with eyes to see the sunset's glow,
With ears to hear what I would know.
Lord, forgive me when I whine.
I’m blessed indeed.  The world is mine.

I can be a world-class whiner. But because of Mr. Moss, when I whine, inevitably I think of someone worse off than me.
Here’s a Thanksgiving exercise. This week, when you start to whine, gripe, or moan, think or say:  “Lord, forgive me when I whine, I have________________.  The world is mine.”  Fill in the blank with “a car that runs,” “a refrigerator full of food,” “good health,”  “a loving husband, wife, child, sister, brother, or friend” or any blessing of your choice.
Happy Thanksgiving, from my pal, Mr. Moss, and me. 


  1. A needed reminder this time of year! I love the poem!

  2. Wonderful column today! I can always say I'm grateful for good babysitters like Debra Kadebra. - Don Matson