A SIMPLE ACT OF KINDNESS
Written by Rick Archer
2015, Richard Archer
- A FIGHTING CHANCE
disaster should have been avoided. The captain had actually been warned about
the dangerous ice field ahead, but he inexplicably continued
forward at a rapid speed.
graduation from St. John's, little did I know I too was on a
collision course with doom. Indeed, Mr. Murphy had warned me.
However, because he was no friend of mine, I paid no attention. Sad to say, Mr. Murphy
could see it coming. He clearly knew my fate was just a matter of time. Given my childhood, my eventual
downfall in Graduate school was as predictable as the
Upon graduation from St. John's, I had three major problems.
My first problem was confidence in
general and my inability to relate to my peers. I was
a loner who did not make friends easily. In
particular, that issue
reared its ugly head during my time as a summer camp counselor.
It was Mr. Murphy was had predicted
my problem with authority and criticism
would someday bring me down. My issues with authority did not appear
during college. Typical of me, I jumped to the
wrong conclusion. I assumed I had matured and that Mr.
Murphy didn't know what he was talking about. I could not
have been more wrong. This issue was a ticking time
The only reason I didn't get into any
trouble in college was simply because
left alone. With no one
around to push my buttons, I got a free pass. Not so
in graduate school. Once
I met a professor
who did not appreciate my outspoken ways, my big mouth got
me in a world of trouble. Lacking the
political skills necessary to survive this situation, I was
dismissed at the end of the year.
The Graduate School dismissal was
horrible. After my childhood scars... the inner
ones... got me thrown out of graduate school, I hit rock
bottom again. I was in the most pain I had felt since my
Senior year in high school. I had no way to deal with
the acute sense of failure I felt.
However, to be honest, it was my total
cluelessness around women that broke me. I don't think
there is any way I will ever be able to completely explain
how much I worried about my looks following the acne
explosion. Unable to look in the mirror without
feeling sick, I had a serious confidence problem to begin
with. Unable to date during high school, I hoped to
catch up in college. However I met immediate
disappointment in my Freshman year at Hopkins. Crushed
by my girlfriend Emily, I became very afraid of getting hurt
I dealt with my fear by more or less
avoiding women for the next several years. All this
did was kick the can down the road. My inadequacy would eventually flatten me
in graduate school. It was the deceit of my two-timing
graduate school girl friend that finished me off. I
was shocked to discover how easily I had been fooled
by her. Faced with the unbearable pain of loss,
humiliation and rage, I developed a debilitating phobia
towards women. Similar to a boy bitten by a dog, I
actually began to tremble with fear anytime I saw a pretty
girl... yes, it was that bad. Now I realized I had an even worse problem than
my scarred face. I was terrified of getting hurt again
because I didn't have the slightest idea how to protect
myself from letting this happen a second time.
So far, I had spent my entire life
waiting for the future. I waited for four years in
high school waiting till I could date in college. That
didn't work out, so I spent four years in college waiting to
date in graduate school. And that led to the worst
pain of all!
'delayed gratification' is the ability to resist
temptation for an immediate reward and wait for a later
reward. In my case, there never was any 'later
reward'. Furthermore, I never deliberately delayed my
gratification - I had no choice! Every time
I tried to date, I got crushed... absolutely crushed.
The pain of my dismissal from graduate
school combined with the pain from this broken love affair
was too much. I was a failure in career and a failure
in love. When would I ever escape my loneliness?
How would I ever figure out what I was doing wrong around
women? Furthermore, what would I do for a career?
The pain of losing my dreams left me virtually motionless
for an entire month. Facing the most serious
depression of my life, I spent an entire month doing nothing
but lie on a couch thinking about all the things that had
gone wrong in my life.
I was hardly the only child to ever
get roughed up in childhood. While some children get knocked
down permanently by hardship, I was one of those who was at
least given a
fighting chance. For all
my problems, I emerged from childhood with enough
skills to cope. Wounded, yes, but not totally crippled.
As I struggled to find the strength to
move on, it was my memory of St. John's that kept me going.
My memory of St. John's was my single anchor while I drifted. My St. John's experience reminded me
that I had licked serious problems in the past.
Laying on that couch, every time I wanted to throw in the
towel, I would remember my success at St. John's. Yes,
I had been tossed out of graduate school, but that didn't
mean I wasn't
stupid. Not by a long shot.
Yes, I had been badly fooled by that woman, but surely I was smart enough
to learn from my mistakes.
St. John's had taught me to compete.
St. John's had taught me to fight. St. John's had
taught me to persist. Based on my time at St. John's,
I knew I had talent.
I clung to that thought like a man clinging to
a life ring in the ocean. It was that thought that
kept me going. Every time doubt crept into
my mind, I reminded myself that for nine long years I had
held my own with the best and brightest.
Yes, I had failed, but no, I wasn't a
failure. St. John's had taught me this. Yes,
right now I had no direction and no idea what to do next.
No matter... someday I would find my way. Deep down, I knew that if I could
just find a way to solve my
personality problems and gain some confidence around
people my own age, I had a lot to
Although it is true my childhood
doomed me to all kinds of future problems, it was my St.
John's education and my St. John's experience that gave me
a fighting chance in life. It was my St.
John's-instilled qualities... persistence, hard work,
ambition, desire for achievement... that made quitting not
St. John's helped in one other way as
well. Although I lacked confidence when it came to
interpersonal relationships, I had supreme confidence in my
intelligence. During the three year period following
the Graduate School debacle, I decided to use my brain to
heal my soul and help me deal with my blind spots.
During this period, I read every possible self-help book I
could find in a determined search for answers to my
problems. Thank goodness a couple of those books made
suggestions that would help me
turn my life around.
Although I have to say my "Angry Young
were almost as miserable as High School Hell, once I managed
to overcome my childhood problems, my days of delayed
gratification were over. I led a charmed and quite
wonderful life once I passed 30.
Facing the most serious crisis in my
life, my memory of St. John's had acted like a lighthouse in a storm. I will never forget
that I owed my fighting
chance to St. John's.
At some point,
the reader will surely have asked whether I am nuts or not.
After all, I sometimes refer to reincarnation and
supernatural interference in our lives as if these things
are as natural as the air we breathe. Considering I
have little more to go on other than some very interesting
coincidences, I will be the first to admit I don't offer a
lot of proof.
Do we have free
will or don't we?
I don't have an
answer for that question. All I know is that whenever
I develop the attitude that I don't have to do anything
because everything is "meant to be", all kinds of things go
wrong. Long ago during my Magical Mystery Tour back in
college, I came to the conclusion that I had to assume I was
in full control of my own ship in order for my life to work.
Therefore, on a
day to day basis, I run my life the same way as everybody
else... when a truck is coming, I get out of the way.
I pay my bills, I obey the law, and I complain about the
weather just like everyone else. I don't attend church
and I don't talk about God unless something brings up the
subject. Indeed, to the average person, I suppose I
seem normal enough. I am certainly not crazy, let's
put it that way.
However, when no
one is looking, I give free rein to my curiosity about the
mysteries of life. I am always on alert for further
evidence that might support my growing belief that my life
is secretly being manipulated. In a private corner of
my mind, I examine everything that happens to me for any
hint of something out of the ordinary. This is all
part of the little game I play called "Spot the
I trace this
strange habit all the way back to the curious events of my
Senior year in high school. If ever there was a time
in my life when I believe I was being manipulated outside my
conscious awareness, that would be it. I went through
an entire year totally unaware of what was really going on
behind the scenes. When I re-examined that year from a
different perspective 40 years later, I realized I had
missed some very obvious clues as to what was going on.
I came to the
conclusion that I suffered from some serious blind spots.
Now I had to ask the obvious question. Was I
really that stupid or did someone deliberately pull the wool
over my eyes?
full of fictional stories where people have suffered tragedy due to
blind spots. By 'blind spot', I am referring to
knowledge that the reader has access to, but the central
figure is completely unaware of. Lacking this vital
information, our hero stumbles mightily.
Perhaps the most
famous blind spot involved the Greek legend of Oedipus.
Here we have the Greek Gods manipulating the fate of this
sad individual to create a terrible tragedy.
King Laius of Thebes was told that one day he would be
murdered by his child. Completely convinced of the
validity of the prophecy, Laius ordered Oedipus, his first
born child, be thrown upon the mountainside to die.
Except that a shepherd found the child and took the boy to
safety. Oedipus was raised by another family who loved
him very much.
As he aged,
Oedipus was made aware of this prophecy, but vowed to never
let it happen. Unfortunately, Oedipus had no idea he
was adopted. He thought the prophecy meant he would
kill his adopted father. So to protect the father he loved, he left his home permanently. How can he kill his father if he
leaves home? Soon a
youthful Oedipus met an angry older man upon the road.
They quarreled over right of way and Oedipus unwittingly murdered his
real father in the process. Thus the prophecy was
The next part of
the prophecy had Oedipus marrying his mother. He was bound and determined to defy this
part of the prophecy as well, but he was blinded to the truth by the
Gods. So he unwittingly married his mother anyway. Upon
discovery of his mistake, Oedipus cursed his ignorance and
his helplessness to prevent this further horror. Oedipus took
the action of blinding himself. Tormented by guilt, he spent the remainder of
his life wandering the world in a self-imposed exile.
The story of
Oedipus is meant to explain that no matter how hard an
individual struggles to defy the Gods, ultimately he has no
power to change his Destiny in a harsh universe. What
will be, will be. The Gods will make sure of that.
go about my daily life assuming I have free will. On the other hand, I don't
think I have free will all the time. Although I act as
if I am captain of my own
ship, there is a part of me that believes some things will
happen to me whether I like it or not... like cutting my eye
out or having a freak attack of acne. I then have the
"free will" to decide what to do about these events.
Am I correct in this belief? That is the question I
have spent my entire life considering. My answer is
that based on my experiences in life, I do believe in Fate.
However, I am helpless to prove this theory. The best
I can do is write this book and let the readers make up their
own mind on this all-important subject.
One of the
reasons I have spent my life preoccupied with the concept of
Destiny is that I sometimes wonder if there might be more to
that Oedipus story than meets the eye. Is it possible
that sometimes we are deliberately deceived by the Universe
so that we are forced to learn a lesson? I have no
evidence on this matter, just a suspicion. It
seems like people make major decisions all the time that
turn out terribly, then in hindsight they ask themselves how they
could have ever been so foolish. Feeling like an
idiot, they can't understand why they were so blind to
the dangers when they made their move.
A simple example
would be my mother's decision to buy that rickety house in my Senior
year. She made that decision based on the slimmest of
economic margins. In the process, she completely
overlooked the fact that my father's child support would end
two months after she bought the house. Alarmed at this
sudden shortfall, she made the crazy decision to
depend on Janie and Linda, two complete strangers, to
hopefully pay rent and bail her out. That solution
failed not long after I left for college.
of both Linda and Janie got tired of living there.
Both couples decided they would be happier finding
places of their own. Once they left, my mother lost that house. My mother's blind spot had led
her to make a reckless move and she paid dearly for her oversight.
Knowing the risk she was taking, why didn't she foresee
the dangers ahead of time? I suppose the obvious answer was that my
mother wasn't very smart. That would be the realistic
answer. But what about the mystic answer?? What
if my mother was deceived into becoming over-confident?
And if so, who would deceive her?
We are taught to
take responsibility for our decisions, but what if there are
times when we are just reading lines from a script? It
seems like we all make at least a couple terrible decisions
in our lives. Then we look back and say, "What on
earth was I thinking? Why did I marry that man (or
woman)?? I should have known better!!"
There is a part
of me that wonders if we make bad decisions because we have
no choice... it is part of our Fate. Is it possible
that the Universe deceives us into making bad decisions so
we can learn something? I have no way of proving such
a thing, but it certainly is an interesting possibility.
Let me explore this
question another way. Where do 'ideas' come from?
Divine Inspiration is the concept of a
supernatural force, typically a deity, who sends a creative
thought to a person. Divine
inspiration has been a commonly reported aspect of
religions for thousands of years. In its simplest
form, a human prays and God delivers a revelation.
So, if we can accept the possibility of divine
inspiration, can we also accept the possibility that
misleading ideas can also be sent to us? That is exactly my
point. Is there such a thing as Divine Deception??
Is it possible
that our Karma dictates we will be tricked into making
terrible decisions so we can learn something or experience
something that will balance the scales from a previous
There are people
who say that certain accidents are God's Will... the
Titanic sinking for example. Legend has it
that several people avoided going on that fateful trip
because they had a premonition. Yet others had no
qualms and went to their doom. Perhaps that was their
Fate. For the others, we might conclude it wasn't
their time yet.
line of thought, perhaps it is our Fate to make certain
really bad decisions because we are clueless as to the
truth. If Oedipus can be deliberately deceived, maybe
the rest of us can be deceived as well. Let me explain
why I wonder if this is possible. I spent my entire
Senior year of high school completely deceived as to what
was really going on. In retrospect, I have to wonder
if I was kept in the dark for a reason.
As we recall, I had
one single goal in life... go to college. That was all that
mattered to me.
acne ordeal, as early as my Sophomore year I gave up all
thought of dating. I also sacrificed my all-important dream of
basketball glory. I did this in order to concentrate on my pursuit of
college. Studying endlessly, I became perhaps the most
over-achieving student in the school. I didn't stop
there. Worried about my parents' inability or unwillingness
to finance my college education, I took the dramatic step of getting a job
after school to begin saving money on my own. In
other words, I did everything in my power to assure my
college education... and what good did it do me? I
went through agony as
all my plans went up in smoke during my Senior year.
As one thing
after another went wrong, the final blow was seeing Katina
Ballantyne handed the Jones Scholarship instead of me. Now
barring a miracle, I believed I
would have to wait another year before starting my college
career. The thought of staying another year in
Little Mexico was more than I could bear. My
disappointment and bitterness was so pronounced that I was
on the verge of collapse.
Fortunately my miserable story had a happy ending. First the charismatic Maria Ballantyne walked
into my life and removed my pain with her magic wand.
Then two weeks later the enigmatic E.K.
Salls solved my problems by sending me to Ralph O'Connor to
receive a college scholarship he had arranged for me before
the school year ever started.
Only a miracle
could have saved me... and that is exactly what happened.
Except there was
one problem with this picture... the image of Mr. Salls
coming to my rescue had never once crossed my mind.
This was my
blind spot. I had no
idea that Mr. Salls was responsible for my scholarship.
Furthermore, I thought Mr. Salls hated my guts.
Mr. Salls, the
man I had admired throughout high school, was trying to help
me throughout my entire year and yet I thought he hated me.
I thought the man had turned his back on me!
As hard as it is to imagine, I spent my
entire my Senior year in high school completely blind to the
truth where Mr. Salls was concerned. Operating under a
blind spot, or 'misconception' if you prefer, of the highest
magnitude, I spent my entire Senior year desperate to solve a
problem that had been solved long ago without my knowledge.
Unaware of the gift awaiting me, I stumbled badly at every
the absurdity of my mother's decision to buy that house, I
experienced the distraction of the Holy Roller music, the
torment of the forbidden sexual availability of Janie and
Linda, and the bizarre transformation of my home into a
Third World country. Then there was my father's broken
promise of college tuition as well as the strange issue of
his salary preventing me from getting a scholarship.
As the pressure mounted, I did the stupidest thing of all...
I cheated on a test... and I got caught against all odds!
I still remember
the incredulity that crossed my mind when that boy stared at
me with suspicion. I wasn't a cheater by nature.
Where on earth had this stupid idea come from in the first
place? I wrote it off as temporary insanity.
Do you see where
I am going with this? Maybe our lives really are
With each plot
twist, I sank lower and lower. The final blow came
when Katina Ballantyne was awarded the Jones Scholarship.
did appear weeks later, I made another mistake. I
completely overlooked Mr.
Salls' hand in the matter and gave all credit for my college scholarship to
Ralph O'Connor. How did I jump so easily to the
wrong conclusion? When my
full-tuition college scholarship simply showed up in my mailbox,
conclusion was that Ralph O'Connor, a man I had met a week
responsible. He had promised he would be in touch...
and this letter was proof that he had come through.
So Mr. O'Connor became my hero. In the process, I completely missed Mr. Salls'
involvement behind the scenes.
In other words,
I got one hero right, but missed the other. I have to be
honest... I think Mr. Salls wanted it that way. I
think it was his nature to do good deeds on the sly and
never take credit. Well, he sure fooled me.
It took the
events of my daughter's Duchesne tuition issue in 2008 to
realize I had completely misunderstood the role of my
Headmaster. I was
incredulous to realize this fairly obvious conclusion had
completely escaped my naive teenage brain.
thing that crossed my mind when I uncovered the truth in 2008 was "How could I have
been so blind?" No doubt Oedipus
said the same thing.
In fact, I was
so completely deluded by the events of my Senior year that my
superstitious side wondered if the Universe had played
some sort of Cosmic Joke on me. I recall being
flabbergasted at my realization. Where Mr. Salls was
concerned, how could I have possibly
missed something so obvious?
Well, I could
only come up with two explanations. The first
explanation was that I was an ignorant teenager who kept
jumping to the wrong conclusions. Okay, to a certain
extent, I'll buy that. That would be the realistic
explanation did not satisfy my 2008 adult mind. Yes, I was young, but
I also spent countless hours trying to understand why Mr.
Salls would give that scholarship to Katina Ballantyne and
not me. NOT ONCE did it ever cross my mind that Mr.
Salls had given Katina that award because he might have a
bigger surprise for me.
Considering how superstitious I am,
I had to ask the question.... Did the Universe
deliberately keep me in the dark so I would learn a lesson?
Given my tendency towards a fatalistic point of view, I certainly
had my suspicions. Perhaps it was my Fate to be kept in the dark
Now as my 2008
adult brain retraced the events of 1968, I reached the new
and quite obvious conclusion that Mr. Salls and Mr. O'Connor
had a pre-existing arrangement to send one quality St. John's student each year to Hopkins.
If the boy needed financial assistance, Mr. O'Connor would
use his influence to make it happen.
No doubt I was Mr. Salls'
hand-picked candidate for the 1968 Hopkins slot. That explains
why Mr. Salls practically ordered me to apply to Johns Hopkins in
September 1967... without telling me, of course, that he
penciled me in for a scholarship care of Ralph O'Connor.
I should have
caught Mr. Salls right from the start. I had always
sensed there was something odd about my Headmaster's
insistence. So why didn't I catch on when I had the
chance? The weak link in
Mr. Salls' scholarship plan was figuring out how to get me to apply to Hopkins,
a school I had never heard of.
When I visited
his office at the start of the school year, his hands were tied.
How was he supposed to sell me on a college that had
virtually no obvious attractions for me? Mr.
Salls was not a born salesman, trust me. Embellishment
was hardly his forte. Mr. Salls was forced to persuade me
to consider a school that had zero name recognition for me,
an unattractive location and no women.
Trust me, Mr.
Salls wasn't terribly persuasive during our
interview. When he first brought up the school, he failed to instill even the slightest
flicker of interest. I think Mr.
realized this, so at the end of the interview he more or
ordered me to apply to Hopkins. His exact words were, "I
highly recommend you also apply to Johns Hopkins."
was "Young man, I
can see you are not remotely interested, but do it anyway because I am asking you
Fortunately, his word carried a lot of
weight with me. It was due to my immense respect for
Mr. Salls that I went ahead and applied to Hopkins anyway.
At the time I had no idea there was a potential
scholarship involved. I was simply doing what he told
me to do.
How on earth did
I miss what Mr. Salls was up to that day? I should
have caught on right there, but it went right over my head
at the time thanks to my Oedipal Blind Spot.
another curious feature to that interview. Mr. Salls
never once suggested an in-state college. Considering
what Mr. Salls knew about my financial situation and the
Johns Hopkins cost four times more than St.
John's, one would think he would also recommend applying to
a school I could afford like Texas A&M or the University of Texas.
Not a word. The only subject he brought up was Johns
Hopkins. In other words, he already knew I wouldn't be
needing to apply to any in-state schools.
Too bad I
completely missed that clue as well.
later when I received
my scholarship in the mail, there was a two month gap till
graduation. Not once during this time did Mr. Salls
give any indication he had arranged my scholarship behind my back.
Mr. Salls remained so secretive that his involvement went right over my
head. If I had not hit that speed bump concerning my
daughter's 2008 Duchesne tuition, I would never have
discovered the truth, but when I did, I was incredulous to
realize I had spent 40 years completely blind to what had
Now that I gave
it some serious "adult" thought, Mr. Salls' decision to help
me made perfect sense. I realized Mr. Salls was
smart enough to know I was in big trouble.
His years of experience dealing with colleges allowed him
to realize what a headache my father's salary would pose
long before it ever hit me. Without his help, I would
be lost. Therefore, based on his
understanding of my situation, Mr. Salls made a quiet decision to
personally solve my financial crisis.
Thank goodness Mr. Salls believed in me. Without Mr.
Salls, I cannot imagine how I would have solved the issue of
my father's salary. However, I wish Mr. Salls had let
me in on his good deed. My ignorance of his
secret moves not only caused me untold panic and heartache, it
had a direct effect on causing my defiant behavior. If
I could have eliminated all that fear, no doubt I would have
behaved much better during my Senior year. Instead,
due to my continued ignorance of the good fortune awaiting
me, I was bouncing off the walls with anxiety.
That said, my adult
mind decided I would
have handled things the same way that Mr. Salls did. It would be
suicide to go around making financial promises to students out
in the open. What if I wasn't accepted at the school? Or what if other students
learned of my generous gift and now their parents wanted a similar deal?
I was forced to agree that discretion and secrecy were
definitely called for.
When it came to secrecy, Mr. Salls was the right guy. Mr. Salls certainly knew how
to be secretive, that much I could say about him. No doubt his World War
II training in military intelligence had rubbed off on him.
A very private man,
not once did Mr.
Salls drop the slightest hint to me about what he was doing. This was typical behavior
for my inscrutable Headmaster.
taciturn nature set me up to be the victim of this nasty Cosmic Joke.
I think I was kept
in the dark for a reason. I have a hunch the Universe
had a lesson for me to learn the hard way. I was to be the
unexpected beneficiary of a magnificent gift. However,
before I received my gift,
the Universe demanded that I suffer no end.
Just like Oedipus.
So why did I cheat?
Now that is an interesting question. Before I continue, let's agree I had no business cheating on that German test in
the first place.
That said, I have
already pointed out there was something very suspicious about
that cheating incident. Earlier in the year, thanks to my
respect for my Chemistry teacher, I had already made the
decision I never wanted to cheat again. Furthermore, I
didn't even want to cheat on the German test. I remember
actually debating whether to go through with it or not.
After all, I didn't have to cheat. I knew most of the
information from paying attention in class and briefly studying
the material the night before. Had I not cheated, I
estimate my grade would have been at most 5 points less.
Big deal. So why did I do it?
explanation was that I was a stupid, immature kid who was acting
However, in this
case, I tend to favor the mystical explanation. I felt
exactly like the guy who claims he was set up. Perhaps I
was "tricked" into doing something stupid. What exactly is
temporary insanity? Is it a psychological phenomenon or is
it a case of an external suggestion planted in one's mind?
I am not trying to escape responsibility here. I am simply
saying that sometimes "Reality" can seem very fishy. In my opinion, the
circumstances surrounding the cheating incident were highly indicative
of metaphysical meddling. In other words, my gut tells me
this was a situation indicative of "Divine Deception".
The tension began the day I realized that college was
four times more
expensive than St. John's. This sobering realization
was the source of untold anxiety. For the first time, I
realized my grocery store money was just a drop in the bucket. I
became increasingly afraid that I
wasn't even going to college next year.
compounded my fears exponentially with his $400 insult.
Once he broke his Sixth Grade Pledge, I snapped completely. After what he did to
me, I was so full of hate towards him that I couldn't see straight. I
allowed my bitterness to cloud my judgment in all sorts of ways.
The cheating incident came soon afterwards.
So yes, I was
feeling unusually bitter on the day that I cheated. Was I
acting out as a desperate plea for attention?
There is a
theory in Psychology that 'acting out' is an attention-seeking
device. One example might be someone's half-hearted attempt at
suicide. In my case, that doesn't feel right. As I
recall, I definitely had no intention of getting caught. I took every
precaution to assure I could peek at the list of German authors without
the slightest chance of being caught. This was not an attention-seeking
device, but rather a silly act of defiance against the rules.
Alone in an empty room in a remote corner of the
school, it took a coincidence of the highest
magnitude for that boy to come bursting in out of nowhere to catch me
I have previously
stated that the coincidences in my life serve as the indirect
proof of God's existence. When I returned to the events of
my Senior year using my adult mind, this incident became Exhibit
#1 in my contention that I underwent a "Fated Event". It was this coincidence that made me
chain of events in my Senior year was no ordinary run of
were a "Supernatural" run of bad luck.
In other words, I
felt that getting caught cheating was meant to be. This
led to one of the most dramatic blind spots of the sequence.
My guilt over the
cheating incident set me up perfectly for jump to the wrong
conclusion when Katina won the coveted Jones Scholarship
instead of me. I went nuts. As the poorest kid in the school, I felt
robbed. Why would Mr. Salls do something like that to me?
My questions over the
unfairness of this baffling maneuver led to the very understandable
conclusion that Mr. Salls had handed the scholarship to Katina as a
rebuke to me for cheating.
Never in my wildest imagination did I
dream that Katina had been given the Jones Scholarship simply because Mr. Salls had a
bigger prize waiting for me.
mistake was to assume the worst - I lost the scholarship
because I was being punished for
cheating. That the only explanation that made sense to
me, so I stopped looking for a more subtle explanation.
The Divine Deception had
worked perfectly. I suffered the most powerful disappointment
imaginable. I wasn't going to college because a man whose respect
I craved had deliberately snubbed me.
Mr. Salls had to be
punishing me. What else could it be? I could not believe my
stupid, self-destructive act of cheating had backfired in the most
horrible way possible. I honestly thought I would miss college the
following year due to my own ill-conceived actions. The
resulting guilt and shame was unbearable. My
self-loathing was off the charts.
Considering Mr. Salls'
assumed rejection of me came on the heels of the cheating incident as
well as my father's rejection, I felt worthless. I was sinking
fast in a vicious downward spiral. I was so seriously depressed I could
barely function. It became an ordeal to go about my daily activities. No, I wasn't suicidal when I lost the Jones Scholarship to Katina
Ballantyne, but I was vulnerable. One more piece of bad news might
have triggered it.
Now that I reached the conclusion that Mr. Salls was very
angry at me, nothing happened in the final two months of
the year to persuade me otherwise. For one thing, I had
virtually no access to the man. I only saw him two times
and both times he seemed upset at me.
Once was the moment he handed me the
phone number for Ralph O'Connor. Perhaps my guilty
conscience affected my judgment, but Mr. Salls seemed distinctly aloof
He was curt and abrupt. I felt like he was disgusted with me.
The other time I saw him was
several weeks later when I was called into his office to
explain why I had stolen the gym equipment. Mr. Salls stared darts
at me the entire time.
First the cheating incident,
then the Jones Scholarship incident, then a frosty stare during the phone
number moment, and finally an angry frown during the stealing moment... I had to assume that Mr. Salls was mad at me. And
guess what? He probably was mad at me! Do you blame him??
The man had every right to be
upset. Holy smokes, I had to be the biggest headache
of any student in the school.
Assuming I was in Mr. Salls'
doghouse, I concluded there was no way to redeem myself. So once
Ralph O'Connor gave me my scholarship, I saw no point in straightening things out
with my Headmaster. Just graduate and leave in disgrace.
Indeed, I left St. John's thinking Mr. Salls disliked me just as much as Mr. Murphy did.
So there's my blind spot... I
thought Mr. Salls hated me the entire time that he was secretly helping me.
It was the cheating incident that
set this entire "Blind
Spot" in motion. This absurd coincidence was followed shortly
by Katina's Jones Scholarship. And who of all people showed up to
rescue me from my despair? Mrs.
Ballantyne, her mother. This was a woman I had never spoken to in
my life and yet ten minutes into our conversation she began telling me
her life story. It was a second coincidence of the highest
People can laugh at me all they want for being so
superstitious, but what if I am right? These back-to-back
coincidences had such a profound effect on the direction of my life that
I feel completely justified in concluding unseen hands were manipulating
If Mrs. Ballantyne had not shown up when
she did, I cannot imagine where my guilt over cheating on that test and
my anguish over losing that scholarship would have taken me.
Kind of a lucky break for me
that she showed up, yes?
Given the significance
and perfect timing of her
unexpected appearance, one can certainly see why I have
concluded Mrs. Ballantyne's surprise visit was nothing short of a miracle.
If not for her timely intervention, my teenage ignorance was taking
me in a very dangerous direction.
thinking Mr. Salls either hated me or disliked me, I kept
that thought throughout adulthood. It wasn't much fun
to think I had disappointed a man I had admired so much. Were it not for the 2008
Duchesne tuition incident, I would have never known the truth. In
fact, I have to wonder if my 2008 revelations were meant to
be as well. Divine inspiration??
I cannot even begin
how silly I felt in
realize Mr. Salls wasn't punishing me after all. Good grief.
I could not believe I had spent 40 years thinking Mr. Salls
was mad at me when in fact he was looking out for me the
entire time. All that guilt
and anguish for nothing.
Oh well, the truth
is I deserved all the suffering I went through, so I don't
feel sorry for myself. Besides, there was some good
that came out of this. At the time I was caught, the
odds were so remote that I
assumed I was caught "for a reason". I concluded the Universe was sending me a
very blunt message. Based on that incident, I
developed a sense of integrity that I have cherished ever
since. Considering I never cheated at anything again
in my life, I have the right to say I learned my lesson.
an interesting way of teaching its lessons, doesn't it?
MY SILENT BENEFACTOR
During the time I
was making a complete fool of myself in my Senior year of high
school, I kept wondering why I was getting so many second
I will never forget
how lost I was once I concluded Mr. Salls didn't even like me.
I had spent three years in his German class trying to show him
how much I respected him. I recall hating myself worse than I have ever hated
myself for letting him down.
My 2008 epiphany
revealed what had really been going on. Now I
finally understood that Mr. Salls had made it a point to watch out for me
throughout my Senior year.
Who let me off
the hook when I cheated on my German exam?
Who let me off the hook when I stole the gym equipment?
the other way when I was being sent to Penalty Hall with
gave me the award for top German student despite being suspected of cheating on my German test?
allowed me to graduate despite my unpaid school bill?
Who else could it
be? Who else had that kind of authority?
I felt crushed. Mr.
my patron all along and it took me 40 years to figure it out. How I wish Mr.
Salls wasn't so damn inscrutable!!
Salls, I suppose he would have denied everything. That was
just his way. Mr. Salls did not seek credit. He was
a man who
avoided scrutiny. He pulled his
strings and worked his magic behind the scenes.
I would not be surprised to
learn my story is just the tip of the iceberg.
No doubt Mr. Salls did unseen favors for many unsuspecting kids just
like he did for me.
Mr. Chidsey, the first Headmaster, had always been a hero to me
because I knew exactly what he did. Mr. Chidsey was the
man who arranged two scholarships for me at St. John's.
it became obvious that Mr. Salls was another hero from
my childhood. He was the man who sent me to college.
Without Mr. Salls, there never would have been Mr. O'Connor.
I just wish it hadn't taken me
40 years to figure it out.
Since Mr. Salls passed away in
1985, there was no way I could go back to him and express my
I was full of regret that there was no way to thank him for what he
had done for me.
enough, my friend Mrs. Ballantyne was
kind enough to relay a message from the past. This
took place in 2009 during my fourth of five visits with Mrs. Ballantyne.
For once, this
particular visit wasn't mysterious... or maybe it was.
Mrs. Ballantyne had an impulsive idea to come see me one
night. Who knows where
this sudden "idea" came from?
Ballantyne, her fifth child of seven, and his lovely wife Yasmine had been
taking Swing dance lessons from me.
Yasmine dropped by her house for a visit late one afternoon.
That is when Mrs.
Ballantyne heard her son mention he had a
dance lesson with me later on.
On the spur of
the moment, Mrs. Ballantyne asked her son if she could tag along to say hello.
Christie said of course. Hop in the car, Mom.
Naturally I was delighted to see my surprise guest. Although Mrs. Ballantyne
was 89 now, I was pleased to note her mind was as sharp as
ever. She moved well too. I was
impressed. The lady was indestructible.
was also still sassy... she immediately
chewed me out... "Rick Archer, where have you been?
Why haven't you been to see
I grinned and
gave her a big hug. Mrs. Ballantyne had to be the most
engaging woman I have ever met in my life. She was
such a character. Never a dull moment around her.
I found a comfortable place on a
nearby couch for Mrs. Ballantyne to sit. Then for the
next 45 minutes I helped Christie and Yasmine work
on their Swing dancing.
As I taught, every now and then I would
glance over at my important guest. Mrs. Ballantyne
never took her eye off of us. She watched our
dance lesson intently with that constant bemused smile of hers.
No doubt the lesson brought back memories from her days of
Swing dancing with her husband Jay during World War II.
Towards the end
of the lesson, I was dying to talk with Mrs. Ballantyne.
So I decided to cut the lesson a little short. I put on some Swing dance music and told Christie and Yasmine to practice on their
own while I went to greet my guest. Christie nodded;
I made a beeline over to Mrs. Ballantyne. She quickly took my
hand in hers and told me how happy she was to see me. The feeling was
definitely mutual. I really cared about this
Mrs. Ballantyne had a surprise for me. She always
had a surprise for me. I swear the woman had special
powers. We got to talking and
Mrs. Ballantyne said she still remembered the day when
she asked her friend Charlie what he knew about me.
My ears perked up.
"Her friend Charlie...??"
Did I really hear what I thought I had heard?
"Charlie" was the name Mr. Salls went by with his friends.
tingling sensation came over me. Where was she going
Mrs. Ballantyne told me she recalled the day that she and Mr. Salls were sitting in
her living room.
Now my eyes grew
Mr. Salls was in her living room?
I had long suspected that Mrs.
Ballantyne and Mr. Salls knew each other pretty well, but I
assumed it was limited to casual conversations at St.
John's. I had no idea they were this close.
Mrs. Ballantyne and
her husband Jay met during the World War II Big Band Swing Era
I interrupted and asked,
"Mrs. Ballantyne, were you and Mr. Salls friends?"
Ballantyne grinned. "You didn't know?
Charlie and I
were great friends! I talked to Charlie nearly
every day at the school. Our families had beach
houses across the street from one another down in
Galveston. My daughter Marina was best friends
with Charlie's daughter Elissa."
I shook my
head in consternation. No one tells me anything.
Mrs. Ballantyne resumed
speaking. She said
that not too long after our visit in the Weingarten's parking
lot, she wanted to know more about me. So she
asked her friend "Charlie" to tell her what he knew
He began by saying I was an
student and that I had a scholarship. Then he told Mrs. Ballantyne that he often worried about me. He
explained my history at the school, then remarked that he
had heard from one of my teachers (obviously Mr. Curran) that my home situation was
Ballantyne said, "Charlie said he had a special
interest in you. No one had ever worked harder
in his class than you did. He admired your
determination to succeed. He commented the only
person he knew who seemed more driven at that age was
I was astounded.
In that moment, Mr. Salls had come back to life to
say he was proud of me. I was 59
years old as she spoke, but I swear I choked up just
like I was a lonely 18 year old kid again. My eyes welled up and I shook my
head in amazement. I never had any idea that Mr. Salls
kept close tabs on me.
I was surprised
to learn Mr. Salls knew how pitiful my home life was. Based on what
Mrs. Ballantyne had just told me, I suddenly realized Mr.
Salls had followed my career at the school far more closely
than I had any reason to believe.
Mr. Salls was not
only a great teacher and a great leader, he was also a very kind
man. He just didn't want anyone to know it. He was
much too modest to draw attention to himself. He kept his eye on
every single St. John's student whether we knew it or not.
In my opinion, E.K. "Charlie" Salls was a man with
very big heart. He took a misguided kid like me and had the
wisdom to see past my poor judgment. Despite my long
list of mistakes, he gave me the fighting chance
I needed to one day become a decent person.
Mr. Salls at
A friend of
mine who reviewed this book had something interesting to
somewhat amazing to me that you didn't end up in
Montana and write a manifesto explaining why you
I am eternally grateful that you
turned out differently instead of these young idiots
in society today who think life is hard on them -
boo hoo - so they go into a school or a movie
theater or a church and shoot up innocent people.
All in all, considering your troubled youth, you are
amazingly sane. How did you manage to come out
question is easy to answer. I had Mr. Salls and
Mrs. Ballantyne and Mr. Curran to
look out for me.
Thank goodness Mr.
Salls trusted there was more to
me than my awful behavior in my Senior year. That probably explained why
he took such a gentle
approach with me.
Unlike Mr. Murphy in
high school and the professor who threw me out of graduate
school, I think Mr. Salls had compassion for me. I
understand I was basically a decent kid who was trying as hard as I could.
I also think I reminded him of his own childhood... that is what
he meant when he told Mrs. Ballantyne I was just as driven to
succeed as he had once been.
As Mrs. Ballantyne
spoke about her friend, I felt so
embarrassed at how badly I
screwed up in my Senior year. Poor Mr. Salls. Oh my goodness.
No good deed goes unpunished!
Mr. Salls had gone to the
trouble of arranging my college scholarship. Then for the rest
school year he was forced to watch in horror as I broke every
rule in the book. Cheating on the test, stealing gym
clothes, arguing with Mr. Murphy, nearly failing Calculus, plus my ever-present sullen demeanor...
the list goes on. Meanwhile my mother was running up
a school bill half the size of a year's tuition and refusing to
pay. Oh, the thoughts that must have crossed his mind.
Could I possibly have been more out of control? I must have tried his patience dearly.
I can only surmise that after Mr. Salls had worked so
hard on my behalf, he was determined not to let me
fail. So he chose to intercede every time I
dropped the ball.
Thank goodness Mr. Salls believed in me.
Mr. Salls was the
mastermind who mysteriously guided the fortunes of many young
men and women from behind his thick curtain. I bet my
story is just one of many fascinating tales. Operating in
stealth, he was able
to keep many students pointed in the right direction.
Mr. Salls was the
most skilled educator I have ever had the privilege to know. Where others might
have given up on me, Mr. Salls made sure I was given every
possible opportunity to fulfill my destiny. I owe my
silent benefactor so much.
It is sad that I never got the chance to thank him. However, at least through
my story, I can make sure his name lives on. In that
sense, perhaps I can repay some of my immense debt to him.
More than any other person in my life, it was the secret kindness of Mr.
Salls that turned my life around.
Mitchell Ballantyne passed away on Memorial Day, May
fools might have the nerve to dismiss Mrs.
as little more than a good housewife. These
people have no idea how much talent it takes
to raise a good child.
didn't raise just one good child, she raised
seven good children. That is quite an
accomplishment. However, since her talent
went pretty much unseen, I doubt Mrs. Ballantyne
would have ever gotten the credit she deserved
without my story. Therefore I appreciate that
was given this chance to tell the world just how special
In a letter to me from Marina, her
warm, inviting, beautiful home my mother created
was constantly filled with her children's
friends, grandchildren, great grandchildren, as
well as the 26 people from all over the world
who came to live with Mom at various times.
over 45 years, Mom hosted her famous Christmas
parties. Then there were the swimming pool
parties she hosted for Dad's residents at the
hospital. Our home was filled with music,
joy, and laughter.
home was also a haven for those in need – from
the poorest hospital patients to royalty.
treated princes and paupers precisely the same –
with respect and a strong dose of her unique
brand of truth serum sprinkled with a sailor's
Parking attendants, waiters, bus boys, and shop
owners would run to kiss her because she saw
them – really saw them – and made them feel
Mom's civic activities included The Park People,
Blue Bird Circle, and the Annunciation Orthodox
could beat all seven of her children at tennis,
and, as legend has it, even beat her brother,
George Mitchell, when he was captain of A&M's
mother was a fixture at St. John's School where
she and my father cheered zealously at her
children's sporting and music events.
Throughout her life, my mother's focus was
always her children and their families.
love her very much.
Dana and Michael are standing.
At the table are George, Christie, Marina, and Lisa.
Katina is standing at Mrs. Ballantyne's side
A family gathering in Aspen,
INSPIRATION FOR MY BOOK
me to admit that I had so little respect for my own
mother that I gave a total stranger like Mrs. Ballantyne
such mythical importance. It is a testimony to
Mrs. Ballantyne that she handled my puppy-dog admiration
for her with such grace and understanding. Another
person with less compassion might easily have written me
off as the creepy loser kid. But then I imagine I wouldn't
have been attracted to person with less compassion.
My fascination with Mrs. Ballantyne was no accident.
Mrs. Ballantyne was a great woman. I feel
privileged that I had the chance to meet her and get to
know her. I think it is amazing that a woman with
seven children of her own, 23 grand-children and 5 great
grand-children had the room in her heart to worry about
other kids as well.
This has been the story of how a 30 minute talk in a
parking lot made all the difference in the world to me.
Mrs. Ballantyne's gentle words helped me overcome a
terrible crisis. It has also
been the story of how many people came along at times in
my life to point me in the right direction when I was
about to lose my way.
Someday I am going to come across a kid who clearly
needs a lift. Perhaps I will know the child well
or maybe just barely. And when I get my
opportunity, I hope a few kind words and suggestions of
my own will have the same healing effect that Mrs.
Ballantyne's conversation had on me many many years ago.
I will do this because I have learned the power of a
simple act of kindness.
Ballantyne, my book would have never been written.
The early seeds for my book were planted in 2005 when I
wrote my first draft regarding the parking lot incident.
Then following our 2009 conversation, I expanded my story
from one chapter to twelve.
In October 2012,
I had a run-in with a drunk on a cruise trip. The
repercussions were unusually severe. Although I did
not provoke the incident, certain people twisted the blame
to me. I suddenly found myself cut off from people who
had once been my friends. This was
the last straw. For the past five months, one thing
after another had gone wrong with my dance classes.
Following my theory that doors open when I am on the right
path, I came to the conclusion that I must be on the wrong
I got the
distinct impression that someone was telling me to quit
worrying about the dance classes and that maybe it was time
to turn my attention to that book I had been thinking about. There was only problem.
one thing for me to speak openly of an unseen world, but how
would Mrs. Ballantyne, her family and Mr. Salls' family feel about my
involving them in my strange tale?
My concern about
Mr. Salls was almost immediately put to rest.
Virtually at the same time as I was trying to decide whether
to begin writing my book, I received this email.
Sent: Tuesday, December 30, 2014 1:41 PM
Subject: St. John's School and my father
My son, E. K. Salls, III, found your article
about my father when
searching for something else on the internet.
After he told me about it, I read your story today.
It is a wonderful, well told story that brought tears to
my eyes when I was reading about what Dad had done to
much for your kind words.
I graduated from St. John's in 1961 so I probably did
not know you. My brother, Cal, was in the class of 1965.
Bettie and I run in to Maria Ballantyne once or twice a
month when we are eating dinner out, quite often at
Paulie's or Tony Mandola's. She is a great lady.
Sincerely, Kim (E. Kimball Salls, Jr)
Due to the name
similarity, it took me a second to realize the email had
been sent by
the son of Mr. Salls. I met with Kim Salls soon after
receiving the email.
Over coffee, Kim told me
many details of his father's life and helped me understand
the man a little better. I immediately added the new
details to my story... how Mr. Salls met his wife, how he
came to St. Johns, etc.
Kim then passed my story on
to his family. I was grateful to find the family of
Mr. Salls very much appreciated hearing my stories about
their father. From what I gather, Mr. Salls didn't
drop his guard very often with his children either, so they
were thrilled to learn more about their mysterious father.
They gave me their blessings to share his story, mystical
mumbo jumbo and all.
I was elated.
You know how I feel about coincidences, yes? The
timing of Kim Salls contact could not have been more
encouraging. I felt
like someone from above had just told me to get to work on
stated that people are typically reincarnated in groups.
If that is the case, then I have to believe that
Mr. Salls and Mrs. Ballantyne were meant to be
my mentors in this incarnation. I find it
interesting that these two people who aided me so
dramatically had childhood stories that ran eerily parallel to my own.
Mr. Salls gave
me the gift of my college education and second chances galore
during my Senior year. He
served as an important role model that I drew upon
throughout my career as a dance teacher and as head of my
organization. Concurrently, his
friend Maria Ballantyne
showed me the value of kindness which in turn awakened my interest in
a spiritual life.
Could I possibly
have had two finer mentors?
While I know
few details about the childhood of E.K. Salls, I know enough to
conclude that he came from a very humble beginning.
This is strictly a guess on my part, but I believe if I
knew more about his childhood, I would learn that he had it
rough as I did. I very much feel like Mr. Salls'
know enough to realize the scholarship he received at
Philips Exeter was surely "the great miracle of his life".
His education took him from a tiny island off the coast of
Maine first to Exeter, then onto Harvard and then later on to his career
at St. John's.
Today St. John's
is an incredible institution. It has been an honor to
reveal the enormous extent of E.K. Salls' contributions to the
school's growth. I doubt that Mr. Salls' contributions have
been largely documented... Lord knows he would never
dream of taking any credit for himself. Thank goodness I was able to
come forward to speak of the greatness of my favorite
I have no doubt that his own experience
made Mr. Salls fully aware of the importance of a
scholarship to a struggling child like me. I have come to
believe that Mr. Salls saw a kindred spirit in me.
That would definitely explain why he went so far out of his way to help
me... especially during my difficult Senior year of high
I know more
about the childhood of Maria Mitchell Ballantyne. She came
from a very humble beginning uncannily similar to mine.
Like Mr. Salls, she and I make a curious pair of twins.
To me, it does not matter that Maria Ballantyne was given "the
great miracle of her life" by a mobster.
some law that says "generosity" is limited to
wealthy philanthropists like George Mitchell and Ralph
O'Connor? Of course not. We can all be generous.
Indeed, thanks to the
generosity of Mafioso Sam Maceo, his gift was exactly the
break Maria Ballantyne needed. Her education took her from
a lonely existence where no one other than her brother cared about
her to an amazing life wrapped around her brilliant husband
and the joy of raising 7 remarkable children.
can be any remaining doubt as to the greatness of
Maria Mitchell Ballantyne, a glance at this family
photo reveals the life accomplishment of this
extended Ballantyne family is indeed a sight to
Ballantyne's oldest son Michael, the Ballantyne family trailblazer
at St. John's, contacted me in 2009 after
he read my original story about his mother. Here is what
Michael had to say:
thanks for the reply and thanks for writing such a
wonderful story in the first place.
Rick, if you ever
see my mother again, you should ask her
to show you a letter my Uncle George
wrote to her one Christmas while she was
in college. They were really struggling
even back then. George was
hustling a bunch of different jobs in
college and would send her money.
the letter he was talking about how lucky they were to
have each other and how they would always be a family.
George was trying so hard to keep my mother's spirits up
when she felt so lonely.
I am proud
of my mother for how she helped you.
I am sure
that some of my mother's empathy is genetic but in large
measure a lot of it is due to the problems in her youth.
so little. Even today my mother buys things to
I have heard
her brother George who made a vast fortune state on more
than one occasion that had he not had some lucky breaks
he would have wound up washing dishes in a Greek
restaurant. I think that folks like my mother and
my uncle who had so
little both in terms of money and a home life do
As a kid we used to go to
the Athens Bar and Grill on the ship channel and she
would bring home Greek sailors all the time -- poor
fellows who were working their butts off to supply their
sisters with a dowry so they could get married or send
money home so their family could come to
Mom would pour her heart out to these men and encourage
them to continue to follow their dreams.
like she did the same thing for you.
The Athens Bar and Grill? Could this story get any
tales I have told about my mother's
escapades at the Athens Bar and Grill, I saw a considerable
amount of irony in Michael's anecdote about the Athens Bar
and Grill. My mother took sailors home for sex,
Michael's mother took sailors home to nurture and encourage
them. The contrast between our two mothers could not have
been more poignant.
Who would have
ever imagined a finer person than
Maria Ballantyne would have emerged from such a tough
childhood to go forward and accomplish so much? Given the similarities of
childhood to my own and the unusual role she played in
my life, one can understand why I
have felt compelled to add her story
as well as that of her dear brother George alongside my own.
As for Mr.
I was drawn to him in much the same way
as I was drawn to Mrs. Ballantyne without ever
I found it
fascinating to discover that Charlie and Maria turned out to be best friends.
I would love to know if they realized they shared the
same humble roots as each other. I imagine they did.
That probably explains why they were so close. It must have
been interesting for these two friends to walk the halls of St.
John's surrounded by so much wealth and power knowing they
shared a secret. Who would ever guess they were both
once very poor?
I cannot help
but feel I was meant to be the third corner of this most
Given that I
believe in the hidden side of life, I firmly believe Mrs. Ballantyne and Mr. Salls were
destined to play important roles in my life.
struggled so much in their own childhood that when they came
upon a young man who reminded them of their past, their
heart went out to me. Both Mr. Salls and Mrs.
far out of their way to help a struggling boy in much the
same as someone had once helped
something I wish to share with my reader - I did not
write this book to make money. Nor did I write this
book to seek glory. I shared my deeply personal
stories for two special reasons.
should be obvious... I wished to show my gratitude to Mr.
Salls and Mrs. Ballantyne.
My other reason
was to give testimony to God. Writing this book was the only way I could explain why I believe in the existence of God. I
am convinced there is more to this world than meets the eye.
It has been my hope that by sharing my story, I could make
people more curious about the strange things that take place
everyone who reads this book will necessarily reach the same
conclusions as me. As I have said repeatedly, I can't prove any of my
mystical theories. There will surely be people who
conclude I must be out of my mind.
As I was writing
my book, I kept asking myself how Mrs.
Ballantyne would feel about being included in my story. It is one thing
to bare my soul. It is another thing to involve other
people so intimately in my story. I was
very concerned about how Mrs. Ballantyne might feel.
After all, Mrs. Ballantyne was the cornerstone of my book. How would Mrs. Ballantyne feel
about being identified as the participant in a
I had a feeling Mrs.
Ballantyne would approve. After all, she had read my
original story in 2005 and had nothing but compliments. However, in the book I would
add many more details about her life story. How would
she feel about letting the world know her education was
financed by a gangster? It was
only right to run it past her.
So I spoke to
Christie, her son. I told Christie I would
only add his mother's story to mine with her permission. Christie
replied that this wasn't his call. He suggested I should go ask her in person.
And then Christie added that his mother was in failing health, so
be gentle. I promised I would.
In February 2015
I paid what I suspected would be my final visit to Mrs.
Ballantyne, my lifelong hero. I was worried about her
condition. I had not seen her in six years and she was 94 years old now. I was sad to discover that Christie was
correct. Mrs. Ballantyne had indeed
become frail. However, to my delight, her mind was
still pretty sharp. Mrs.
Ballantyne recognized me immediately and gave me a warm
Her first words were, "Rick
Archer, I know you! You
were in Katina's class at St. John's! Where have you
I smiled as
Mrs. Ballantyne had the funniest way of making me feel like
the most important person in the world.
I had several
questions to ask Mrs. Ballantyne about the past. In
particular, I wanted my burning question answered..."Mrs.
Ballantyne, what went through your mind on the day you
discovered who I was back at the the Weingarten's parking
Unfortunately, I was
out of luck. I had waited too long. Mrs. Ballantyne no longer remembered any
details of the fateful meeting back in 1968 or for that
matter the reason
why she had come to my dance studio in 1978. Oh well.
Although I was
I didn't let it bother me. That wasn't
the main reason why I had asked to see her. What I
wanted to know was whether Mrs. Ballantyne had any objections
to letting me share her personal story in my book. So I took a
deep breath and asked.
I am not sure what Christie told you, but I came
here today to ask your permission to
tell the story of your difficult childhood. As
you may recall, back in 2005 I first wrote the story
of the significance that you have played
in my life. I believe our lives are linked in
a special way. I would very much like to tell
the world why you are so important to me."
Ballantyne smiled. Without hesitation, she said of course it was okay.
"I remember your
story, Rick. Of course you have my permission."
And then she grinned.
Mrs. Ballantyne got that familiar twinkle in her eye. "But only on one
stopped beating. What could it be??
"You have to promise me you will
tell the story of the time I beat my brother George
at tennis when he was captain of the A&M varsity!!!" And then
she flashed that huge smile of hers.
Now I smiled
too. What a thing to ask for! I nodded and said, "Don't
worry, Mrs. Ballantyne. Consider it done."
left, I had one more question to ask.
Ballantyne, do you believe in Fate?"
thought about it for a while. Mrs.
Ballantyne looked at me very carefully, then spoke
up. "Rick, I will tell you what I do believe in.
I believe in miracles."
nodded. Yes, Mrs. Ballantyne, so do I.