While teaching high school, I had the privilege of riding to and from class with my department chairman, Gene Beeman. Gene had been the band director at my school but, after a heart attack, he agreed to become an English teacher in order to remain in education. Beeman, the man, was a superb teacher, always on task, always working for students. As a friend, I admired him for his rapport with his wife and family, his boys in particular. When I was frazzled, Gene was not. He was “Mr. Cool, Calm and Collected,” but he accomplished that laid-back demeanor without demeaning others. He was just being Gene. The reason we rode to school together was that we lived in close proximity to each other, and the drive was all the way across town, south to north. It made sense for us to trade driving days.
One morning, I overslept. In fact, I didn’t wake up until Gene blew the horn to let me know he was out front. I went into overdrive, rushing here and there, wondering what I could not do and still be presentable at school. Should I brush my teeth later? Would my hair comb without a shampoo? My wife had already gone out and told Gene what was going on and that I would be there as soon as possible. When I finally came out of the house, I was a mess. I was frustrated, upset with myself, and anything but “cool, calm, and collected.” As we drove off, Gene was driving the car, but I was pushing on the accelerator although it there wasn’t one on my side of the car. He seemed not to realize that we were late for school. We were only about half way to our destination when Gene pulled over to the side of the road next to a little coffee shop and stopped. “What are you doing? We’re going to be late,” I asked, wanting to remind him of our need for haste. Gene looked at me and said, “Yes, we’re late. I’ve called. They know we’re going to be late, and you need a cup of coffee.”
I’ve never forgotten the wisdom of that morning and the very wise man, my friend–Gene Beeman.