Today, I would like to share a delightful little anecdote which made me feel happy and warm inside.
This year is my first as a high school English teacher. On my first day last September, I met a young philosophy teacher. It was also his first year, and we have since become really good friends. He is a sweet, clever and quite reserved man, the kind of person you can have very intellectual conversations with while still being able to talk about the silliest things. Quite a treat!
Last Tuesday, he came to see me in the teachers’ room and, as he sat beside me, he handed me a small piece of paper, carefully folded in a little square and said “Look what I found in my classroom today. I’m confused.” I took the note and read it.
Here is the translation: “Hello, we don’t know each other, but you’re a philosophy teacher right? I have a question for you: why do men always want to be happy? Thanks a lot. I know we don’t know each other, but we never speak to strangers enough.” Yes, I know… I took a picture of the note. It may seem strange, but it was just so cute. How often do you get to have a secret message sent to you? It was almost otherworldly to me. I loved how fanciful it was – it seemed like we had slipped into a novel. My friend was still confused and I tried to help him see the beauty of the gesture. But he was quite unmoved, unfortunately…
We both wondered, however, who that mysterious girl (for we both knew it must be a girl) could be. I had a strange feeling I had seen the handwriting before, but I could not remember where. Of course, there was no way to find out. There are over 2,000 students in the school where we teach…
But then today, right after class, something utterly funny happened. Three of the kids waited for me and asked me how things were going between the philosophy teacher and me. I told them that we were colleagues and friends. They looked quite disappointed, but one of the girls started blushing. Her reaction spurred my curiosity – there must be something the matter with the philosophy teacher; it was unusual enough that they even knew his name, as Freshmen do not have any philosophy classes. So I simply asked how they knew him and the girl turned bright red. That’s when it occurred to me that she may be my friend’s secret admirer! I gave her a mischievous look and asked: “Melanie, you don’t happen to have written M. Saunier a note, do you?” The poor girl, who was already crimson, was shaken with an uncontrollable fit of laughter. She was the one indeed.
So here is how I discovered the identity of the mysterious note-sending girl. She looked very much smitten with my colleague, which made me feel a little sorry for her, but also happy because I loved her spontaneity and her drive. She was so keen, so enthusiastic! Her whole face sparkled with joy whenever she mentioned his name – it truly was the most touching sight. A snapshot of joy, love and youthful innocence.
The note she gave my friend is also interesting. First, there’s the question she asked: “Why do men always want to find happiness?” You could write whole essays on the subject, but to ask someone you do not know, but could possibly give you an answer and discuss the topic with you sounds to me like a wise gesture. Then, there’s the second part of the message: “I don’t know you, but we don’t speak to strangers enough.” There’s a core of truth in the sentence – we tend to seclude ourselves from others because we do not know them; we are afraid. Too afraid. Most people let themselves be controlled by fear. But she didn’t. She tried to make a connection, to reach out to someone, just for the sake of it. And that, I think, is beautiful.
“Do stuff. be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. stay eager.”
― Susan Sontag