I’m an insomniac because of life experiences. As a young child I stressed because I had to wear leg braces and an eye patch to school after multiple eye surgeries. I hated going to school. In fact, I would purposely miss the bus so not to get made fun of by other kids. My mother had to drive me to school and encourage me in the doors. Several mornings at my elementary school, as I was dreading the day, I would suddenly feel a hand rest upon my shoulder, and I’d look up to see my principal James “Jay” Clark. He’d ask how my morning was going. I knew he could see my red eyes, a result of me crying on the way to school, but he’d never lead on and instead he’d just give me a reassuring smile and a firm pat on my back and send me on my way to a day full of discovery and learning despite my unhappiness.
Years later, as a grown woman, my principal and I reunited. Now he became a friend instead of my educator, and the two of us shared the common bond of military service. He had served in the US Army, and I was currently serving in the US Navy. He had come to pay his respects at my best friend’s funeral – my Father! A few years later, this icon of reassurance and goodness was once again paying his respects at my Mother’s funeral.
On February 14th, the day we all know as Valentine’s Day, this lovely man himself left his family, his church congregation, and the thousands of former students, all who adored him for his loving and gracious ways. During his memorial service, I learned I wasn’t the only child who’d felt Mr. Clark’s reassurance and encouragement needed to carry on and succeed in life. Hundreds of his former students were there to pay their respects along with hundreds of others touched by the giving life of James “Jay” Clark.
As usual, I’ve been awake almost all night, and I’ve been watching the usual “who done it” forensic crime shows. One episode focused on an unsolved murder in Denver, Colorado, and another attempted murder in nearby Fort Collins. The girl who survived was asked by the Dateline reporter why she’d chosen to forgive the man who almost murdered her, and Lydia Tillman simply said, “I chose love and peace over fear.” And she presented a bracelet with her name on it that showed the acronym: L. Live, Y. Your, D. Day, I. Inspired, A. Anew. At Mr. Clark’s Memorial service, I learned a lot more about his young life and found out he was quite a survivor himself. As a result, he just seemed to know when someone needed a pat on the back, a little encouragement and most of all, a smile. Choosing love and peace over fear helped both these individuals inspire many others.
As an owner of a business that supports artisans and designers affected by tragedies such as human trafficking and war, I’m hoping to send you on your way today feeling encouraged, loved and inspired anew. It needs to be part of my business everyday. Jay Clark always did that for me, so in tribute to him, I’m going to do my best to inspire you!
Jay – J. Just. A. Assure. Y. Yourself!