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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Anderson

Mr. Patrick

Updated: Jul 17, 2023

Sometimes there are people who come into your life that you would swear to God that they were a literal angel posing as a human being. I know that this is not true, but there were two people who came into my life who saved me, one physically, and one mentally and emotionally. Bell Sanders and Jerry Patrick. Beautiful Bell will get her own blog, this one is about Coach Patrick.

Jerry Patrick was a coach, and my PE teacher from 4th grade to graduation, and he was my coach for both Junior High and High School basketball teams. But he was not like the stereotypical dumb jock gone to seed. He was kind, and gentle, and understanding. But he seemed to really care. He embodied all best the best things a teacher could be, and he wanted us to be the absolute best selves that we could be. But not just in sports, many times I was called into his office and given a lecture on being a better person. And they were not a Drill Sargent “get your shit together, private!” harangues, instead it was deep and inspirational guidance.

The man had a can on his desk with a bumblebee on it. He would take you in and tell you about the can and how the bumblebee is too heavy to fly, but the bee doesn’t know that, so it just does it anyway. And he tells me that I “can” be a bumblebee too, (Get it? A can with a bee on it - Dad Joke!) if I just believe in myself and try my best. In my mind, he was the absolute ideal of what a man should be. Jerry Patrick saved me mentally and emotionally after my dad broke me. He slowly took the time to build me back up. I had no real skill and ability in sports, but the man took me under his wing. He filled the father shaped hole in my heart.

Teachers, on those really hard days when you wonder if all your struggles and sacrifices are making any difference in these kids’ lives, let me help you out here: Never doubt it. Everyone has an inspirational teacher story, a story about how a kind or loving act made them make a different choice that changed their life somehow. But for some of us, you are all that we have, you are our one thread to hope for a different life. For me Mr. Patrick was that teacher. No one but those of you who have been here are going to understand how deep this is, and how much he saved me. I needed so deeply for someone to care. I needed someone, someone to see my value.

To others, he was Coach Patrick, a damn fine coach, or maybe just another teacher, but to me, he was the person who guided me into the person that I became. So many times, he took me into his office and gave me “the talk.” You know the one, “I have noticed you are heading down the wrong path.” Then he'd hit me with the, “you are better than that.” That really gets you. Then, this glorious man would start with the coach speech. “I know the cards are stacked against you. That just means that you cannot give up, you have to fight harder than everyone else. You have to prove yourself. You can do it. Practice, train, fight though the pain, be all that you can be!!!”

And you know what Dad, it worked. I did. I changed my behaviors because I did not want him to be disappointed in me. I did work harder, because I wanted him to be proud of me. Because he believed in me, I believed in myself. Words can not express my deepest gratitude to this man. For helping me become the best person I could be. Teachers, it may be one in a thousand, but I know that some place out there, there is a child that is changed for the better because you cared, because you showed real, honest love and concern. There is some grown person out there, that you helped make a better person. And that person is now working to make the world a better place. I could have easily gone down a different path. I was primed for drug and alcohol abuse, to get into an abusive relationship, and overall a general downhill slide to a dark life, to continue the generational trauma tradition of my lineage. Over and over again, my teachers were my life-line to hope, fulfilling needs that were not being met at home, to be the parents that I needed. Teachers are not parents to one or two, they are parents to thousands. You do make a difference.

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