My seventh grade science teacher, Mr. Clyde Haak and my seventh grade football coach, Coach Mark Wallace, both ignited my passion for living and leaving a positive legacy. They entered my life during my most formative years and imparted life impacting messages, which will remain with me forever.
I grew up in poverty. I’m the middle child of eight siblings, there would have been nine of us, but my youngest brother, Jessie, died two weeks after birth. The ten of us, including my mother and father, lived in a three-room house, not bedrooms, that sat on cinder blocks. The house consisted of a kitchen, a bedroom for my mother and father, and the third room served as a living room during the day and a bedroom for me and my brothers and sisters at night. There was no indoor bath facility and no hot water. We had to heat the water up on the stove to take a hot bath.
My mother worked as a domestic. If you have seen the movie The Help, that’s a great characterization of what my mother did all her life. The majority of the clothes we wore came from the homes my mother cleaned. I remember during my elementary years, having three shirts and three pairs of jeans, all with holes in them. Many times during those early years my older brother, Rayfield and I, would cut out cardboard to slip into the soles of our shoes to keep the heat of the pavement out in the summer, the water out when it rained, and the cold out in the winter.
It was during those very difficult times that I encountered Mr. Haak and Coach Wallace. They gave me hope when I thought there was none. They gave me confidence when I had no self-esteem, and their commitment to serve me went far beyond my greatest expectations.
When Mr. Haak passed out my report card for the first six weeks of class I had an A. He stopped by my desk and told me I had earned the A and I could make A’s in all my classes if I wanted to. Then later during class he said he was going to make me his lab assistant. He asked me to come to the school on Saturday mornings and help him set up the labs. It was during those special moments he showed me how to prepare slides, preserve specimens, and use the microscope.
After a game that I played really well in, Coach Wallace hugged me and told me I was the best 7th grade football player he had ever coached. Another special moment I remember occurred when I was changing into my uniform before practice. Coach Wallace walked up to me and said,
“Hearne, those jeans and shoes you’re wearing with the holes in them do not define you. You have a very bright future if you keep working hard.”
These men did not give me hope through their words alone but also through the time they spent with me. The importance of the legacy they left for me to emulate can’t be measured by mere words. This legacy of giving hope to others has to be lived out in actions and deeds in the lives of the people we encounter every day.
If you have a discerning spirit, God will often give you a snapshot of your own legacy. It comes in some of the strangest places, at some of the strangest times. Not long ago a taco shop opened near the area where I worked. The restaurant became the rave; people were waiting up to an hour to be served. It was there that God gave me a glimpse of my legacy.
When I walked into the restaurant, two college-age ladies were taking orders. “Hi, Mr. Hearne,” one of the girls said politely. “You wouldn’t know me, but you were my principal when I was in high school. I never got in any trouble to be sent to your office.”
“That’s kind of bittersweet. I’m glad you didn’t get in any trouble to be sent to my office, but it saddens me to know that I never got the opportunity to know you.” I told to her. She asked if I were still a principal at the school I responded that I was now the Director of Student Attendance for the district.
Then, the other girl spoke up.
“You’re the one who goes out and write tickets, and harasses students into coming to school,” she said.
“No, that’s not at all what we do,” I responded. “My officers conference with the families about the problems, and I find resources to help them. We want to avoid writing citations.”
As I was explaining this to her, I could see the young lady who knew me as her principal was smiling. When I finished explaining, she said:
“Mr. Hearne, that’s what you’ve always done. You’ve always tried to help people.”
It’s all I want people to remember about me—that I always tried to help people. That is what I want to be my legacy. That young lady said I didn’t know her, but she knew me and apparently she had witnessed me helping people. The life impacting messages that I received from Mr. Haak and Coach Wallace helped me transition from a student with no self-esteem, a strong desire to drop out of school, and failing grades in my classes into a honor roll student with a dream. I took their inspirational messages, and turned my dream into a goal of becoming a science teacher and a football coach. I graduated from High school and received an academic/athletic scholarship to attend college. I graduated from college, and taught science and coached football in the public schools for over thirty years.
1 Peter 4:10 reads, “Every good and special gift you have received from God, should be used in service to others.”
I know that I have received a good and special gift from God. I want to use that gift everyday by continuing to carry out Mr. Haak and Coach Wallace’s legacy. I want to educate, mold, and inspire others to become the very best God has created them to be.
1. What legacy are you living and leaving today?
2. What unique gifts do you have that you can serve others with?