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TEACHERS - The Ones I Can't Forget

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TEACHERS - The Ones I Can't Forget by Martin Fletcher

Published by Morgan James Publishing

 

I have long wanted to write a book about what I learned in my four decades of reporting, and of course joked it would have to be a very slim book. 

I’ve certainly seen a lot. My business was to meet people on the worst day of their lives, tell their story, and move on, often to a different tragedy in a different country. I needed thick skin, but many left a scratch on my soul. I learned from their lives and they changed me. 

It is from this well that I draw.   

For our world is made of tiny stories. Some are happy and funny, some are tragic, some merely unfortunate. 

We are told the road to success is paved with failure, for that is where the lessons are, these are the stories that help us grow. Well, that’s where I come in.

Take the Greek women’s relay team. In the 4 x 400 relay at the 2004 Athens Olympics the United States women won gold, Russia silver and Jamaica bronze. But the stadium’s loudest cheer came a full half minute later when the last Greek runner finally fell across the finish line. While the press pounced on the victors, my attention was on the losers. Who were these Greek duds? How did it feel to fail so fully? Before their home crowd even?

All winners celebrate the same way. They leap and hug and laugh and drape themselves in the national flag before the cameras. But what do the losers do?

 

The people I learned from lost. They may have been  defeated, scared, weak, alone, but none gave up. They put one foot before the other and then another in the hope that tomorrow would be a better day, however unlikely. 

Like the mother who waved away her new-born because she hated the thought of bringing her son into war and exile. Yet two days later, in her freezing tent in Kosovo, I watched as she nursed her baby and beamed with joy. The father in Somalia whose wife and four daughters died of starvation yet told me his dream was to go home, plant his crops, find a new wife and sit under the tree. The little girl in Macedonia who lost her family yet never stopped smiling. Every day in the refugee tent she drew stick figures of her mother and father and after two months, found them again. All these people and a thousand more taught me never to give up hope, that every problem has a solution, and that if you don’t find it, keep looking. And if you still can’t find it, well, find another way. As they say, a door closes and a window opens. The Japanese say, fall down seven times, get up eight. And the British war-time slogan was Keep Calm and Carry On. 

Anyway, what choice do we have?

 

In these pages I want to introduce you to some of the people from whom I have learned, and maybe pass on some of their lessons. I emerged from many of my encounters bewildered, wondering how the people I met in such hard times could possibly recover, wondering how they could pick up the pieces. What would they do tomorrow? But over many years and in many places their fortitude has made our world stronger and their tiny stories have given me forbearance and understanding, and above all, have made me grateful for what I have. How easily it can be taken away.

 

One I carry with me is Evelyne, a sweet little girl in Uganda. Eight-years-old, Evelyne was an orphan and HIV positive, yet she was wise beyond her years. The cover of her school book revealed everything, and wet my eyes.

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