Some Lessons Are Timeless

Published 02.27.2017

Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour

by Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour

President of the College


In a daily world that is filled with chaos and change, it is heartwarming to know that caring still counts and is important.

It is a sunny day. I am working at my desk and awaiting my next meeting. I decide that the 10 minutes I have would be best spent cleaning out my email box. I try and routinely complete that task and it felt right.  I started with a folder I call General. This is the junk drawer of my email. If I do not know what folder in which a message belongs, it goes to General. I always start at the bottom, with the oldest email in the folder, and found a message from February, 2011 (Author Unknown). I almost hit “delete” without reading. How could it matter today, six years later? Below are the contents, and yes, it does matter. This is my thought for the day and my reminder we can always learn and should pass it on.

Lessons about the way we treat people

1 – First Important Lesson – Cleaning Lady

During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions until I read the last one: “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?” Surely, this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50s, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade. “Absolutely,” said the professor. “In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say ‘Hello.’” I have never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.

2. – Second Important Lesson – Pickup in the Rain

One night, at 11:30 p.m., an older African-American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rainstorm. Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride. Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car. A young white man stopped to help her, generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960s. The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance and put her into a taxicab. She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him. Seven days went by and a knock came on the man’s door. To his surprise, a giant console color TV was delivered to his home. A special note was attached.  It read:

“Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes, but also my spirits. Then you came along. Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband’s bedside just before he passed away … God bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others.”

Sincerely, Mrs. Nat King Cole

3 – Third Important Lesson – Always Remember Those Who Serve

In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10-year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A server put a glass of water in front of him. “How much is an ice cream sundae?” he asked. “Fifty cents,” replied the server. The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it. “Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?” he inquired. By now, more people were waiting for a table and the server was growing impatient. “Thirty-five cents,” she brusquely replied. The little boy again counted his coins. “I’ll have the plain ice cream,” he said.  The server brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and left. When the server came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies. You see, he could not have the sundae, because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip.

4 – Fourth Important Lesson – The Obstacle in Our Path

In ancient times, a king had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king’s wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the king for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way. Then, a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the king indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many of us never understand! Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.

My Important Lesson – Gratitude Never Gets Old

I will add my own lesson today. While sharing breakfast with our horticulture and groundskeeping staff a few days ago, we were anticipating spring and the arrival of flowers and leaves to campus. I was thrilled to hear the report that our students are very “kind and generous this year.” Seems as this great crew of people work to keep our campus clear of hazards in the winter and beautiful in the summer, our students have noticed. I heard multiple accounts of students saying “thank you” and making kind remarks to the staff for their work.

In a daily world that is filled with chaos and change, it is heartwarming to know that caring still counts and is important. Live with no regrets, treat people the way you want to be treated, and learn every day. Together, we can make the world a better place.