I bumped into an old teacher of mine recently.
She taught me and my two brothers back in primary school at various stages. I must have been just 6 years old.
And there she was, waiting in line at the same restaurant just meters away from me. She was with friends or colleagues, I couldn’t tell.
I noticed her immediately, thinking that it would be nice to re-introduce myself. But a wave of anxiety held me back.
I was trying to pump myself up to do it, conscious that at any moment either of us may be seated, taking that chance away from me. Perhaps I would never get the opportunity again.
The waiter asked them to follow him, and as they started walking in a line directly past me, I jumped up from the ‘waiting’ sofa and tapped her on her shoulder, forcing me to say something as her friends walked on obliviously.
I told her that she used to be my teacher. Her face lit up as I added that she’d taught not just me, but all my siblings too.
Incredibly, after taking a moment, she recalled exactly who my brothers and I were and when she taught us, even going on to ask about my parents and how they were getting on.
It was an incredibly wholesome moment in the midst of complete strangers.
She went on to ask cautiously: “so did you end up going to university or something?”
It took me back and made me pause for a moment. This wasn’t a question I was frequently asked. It highlighted the astounding gap between our last meeting: two whole decades.
Nevertheless, it gave me the chance to highlight some of my milestones since then. I told her that I did indeed go to university, and that my brothers and I all went on to become doctors.
Her face beamed with joy whilst she praised God on hearing the news. I interrupted her to thank her too, telling her that it was teachers like her that played a part in who I am today.
We wrapped up our well-wishes for each other and took a picture before she disappeared into the sea of tables.
I continued waiting for my friends to arrive, smiling at the interaction that I could have so easily passed on.
It also made me stop and reflect, that I have achieved things that I should be proud of, things that others would be proud of. Hearing myself say what I’d been up to for the last twenty years put my life in perspective. It’s easy to forget our accomplishments after living with them for so long, but it’s an exercise of positivity and self-respect that you routinely congratulate yourself on what deserves it, just as much as we beat ourselves up for our shortcomings.
Every day for the next week, I caught myself thinking about that moment, and how a small positive interaction was sticking with me for so long. My parents smiled on hearing about the reunion, recalling the years as I showed them our selfie from that day. I wondered if she thought about that moment again. I hope she did.
Most importantly, I was happy that she received some good news. That she was thanked. That she was reminded of generations of adults that were only made by those who took the time to make them.