A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.


June 14th, 2008

Who taught you what you know?

What proficient skills do you possess because, once upon a time, someone had the patience to start from scratch and teach them to you?

Have you said “thank you”?

As I sit here composing this column it occurs to me that my fingers are quickly, and fairly accurately, navigating the “QWERTYUIOP” keyboard with little thought or effort. If you can believe it, I’m not even watching my hands. A feat which, for a guy with only one eye, may be of greater or lesser significance depending on how you look at it.

I owe it all to Mrs. Johnson.

It was a one semester class. Typing. That’s what they called it back in the day. And Mrs. Johnson was our teacher. Anyone who teaches junior high is automatically a saint. The only question after that is how many stars they’ll have in their crown. Teaching a bunch of ornery pubescent 8th grade boys to type had to be good for a least a couple.

Mrs. Johnson was a classroom veteran, having taught my Dad and I suppose some of the Dad’s of my fellow classmates when they were in high school. She was a no-nonsense person and as I recall, nothing phased her. A trait that served her well when trying to get me and my buddies to pay attention long enough for her to explain the basics of the electric Royal’s and IBM’s.

We learned one letter at a time. Where to place our hands. What fingers to use to reach for the letters above and below. How to use the space bar, the shift key and the tab. How to set our margins. How to capitalize. And eventually, hopefully, how to do all that without looking at our hands, which she insisted would ultimately slow us down.

As the semester progressed, we were given tests. To type certain assignments from the flip-chart style textbook that stood next to our typewriters. A mistake couldn’t be erased. If you messed up, you had to start over. The purpose was to develop our attention to detail while working toward speed and accuracy.

However, my buddies and I viewed it as a challenging opportunity to obliterate the other guy’s work. On test days, we didn’t look at our hands as much but only because our heads were on a swivel, watching for incoming bombs of balled up masking tape, big erasers or, in extreme typing warfare, a tennis shoe. All launched with the objective of wiping out 20 minutes of keyboard perfection. If your radar and deflector shields weren’t up, your “quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” became “quick brown fox juiyrpyweseg”, complete with a massive key jam. The sound and score of a direct hit was immensely satisfying. To get bombed on the last line of your test and have to start over, the ultimate frustration.

Somehow, in spite of all our horseplay and inattention, Mrs. Johnson taught me how to type. And in the process, she made it enough fun that when school let out for the summer, I went home and found my Grandpa’s old manual Smith-Corona. I even lugged it on our family trip to Ohio and West Virginia, journaling our adventure. A month of pounding those stiff green keys and you had finger strength enough to poke bare handed through drywall. A few years later, my parents gave me my first electric. It felt like I was typing on air.

Mrs. Johnson’s been gone for many years. I never had opportunity to say “thanks” for teaching me a skill I use everyday. More importantly for me, a skill that is an integral part of my passion to write and communicate. That I can sit down and quickly type out an idea, think on paper (or word processor), or otherwise express written thoughts and sentiments to others is an ability I take for granted.

Take a moment and think about something you love to do. Or a skill you use everyday. Who taught you? Make a point to find them, wherever they are, and say thanks. You’re a better person because they taught you something. And because you’re better, everyone in your life is better. Because it’s impossible to only make a difference in one person’s life. We’re all connected. Make a difference in one, and you make a difference in more.

Go make a phone call, send an email, or write a note and say “thank you for teaching me”. It will make their day. And yours, too.

I will be typing my thank you notes on the computer while looking at the screen.

And not at my hands.

Thanks, Mrs. Johnson.

Todd A. Thompson  www.ASliceOfLifeToGo.com