Make any day a good day

osage orange tree
West of Winesburg.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I had driven this route many times in the past. Usually, it started in the early morning twilight and ended in the glare of the afternoon sun, if I didn’t have a meeting after school.

I served as principal at two of the nicest elementary schools anyone could hope for or conjure. I loved my job at Mt. Hope and Winesburg schools.

An emotional funk had overtaken me, and I needed a spiritual pick me up. Those former school days mentally surfaced, so I called the man who had replaced me 17 years ago. Dan was more than happy to show me around the schools where I once whistled my way down the halls. It had been years since I last graced them.

With our impending move to Virginia set for next spring, I knew I needed to start reconnecting with folks and places that had played such important roles in my life, professionally and personally. The schools were on that list.

That’s how I came to retrace the roads I took for 21 years every school day. I knew every turn, hill, and valley.

Amish buggy, autumn
Along the road.
I made Mt. Hope my first stop. Dan greeted me at the front door after I pushed the security buzzer, a necessary addition since the Nickel Mines shooting 10 years ago in Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania.

Dan escorted me around the building that I knew so well. Physically, not much had changed. The staff and pupils, however, had. I soon found familiarity and links to the past.

Dan asked the students in each class how many of their parents had gone to Mt. Hope School. I was astonished at how many hands flew up. We went pupil by pupil to see if I could remember their folks.

To my amazement, and theirs as well, I remembered their parents and grandparents, where they lived, and even a few first names. When the school is full of Yoders and Millers, that’s not an easy task.

My reunions with Jerry the librarian, Jim the teacher, and Nettie the cook brought smiles to my face, stirred my soul and filled me with compassion for their career commitments to nurturing children.

My age hit me square in the face when I met the custodian of both schools, Brandon, a former student. He was too busy to talk much, but his handshake spoke volumes. The school sparkled as brightly as his eyes.

Holmes Co. OH
A view around every turn.
More memories resurfaced while driving the five miles between Mt. Hope and Winesburg. There still is no bar or golf course in between. The road was still bumpy, the views still pristine. Corn shocks stood in the same fields they had all those years ago.

At Winesburg, I found the school just as clean and hospitable as Mt. Hope. I was glad to see many of the same staff members I had worked with and hired before I retired. We hugged and shared heartfelt recollections.

The storyline with the students also repeated. The eagerness of the youngsters to name their parents buoyed me. Some I identified by family name just from their physical features. When a student said who her mother was, I said, “Oh, yes. I remember. Carie with one “r.” I’ll never forget the beam on that young face.

This uplifting experience had been a morning to remember for me. All this human interaction freed me from my gloominess. It gave me hope that any day, no matter how trying, can be a good day.

I just had to take the initiative. The children and friends did the rest.

sunrise, Ohio's Amish Country
A new dawn.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

Author: Bruce Stambaugh

Writer, marketer, columnist, author, photographer, birder, walker, hiker, husband, father, grandfather, brother, son, township trustee, converted Anabaptist, community activist, my life is crammed with all things people and nature and wonder. My late father gave me this penchant for giving and getting the most out of life, my late mother the courtesy, kindness, and creativity to see the joy in life. They both taught me to cherish the people I am with. I try and fail and try again.

12 thoughts on “Make any day a good day”

  1. Sometimes the thread that joins us to our past can become a lifeline when we need it. Sounds like it served you well that day. What a heart warming experience.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. What a marvelous heart-nurturing journey to make, Bruce! I love stories of personal connections like this. (The Cari with one “r” is a gem!) Your story here reminds me of some of the personal connections I intentionally made before moving away from the Valley. Those things are a vital part of making a life transition a positive thing.

    The other week at our writers’ meeting, Ed talked about how highly regarded you were in your educational career. This story gives glimpses into why. You invested your heart along with your labor.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Ava. It was a marvelous experience to revisit the schools. I left a position I loved. I wanted to leave before people wanted me to leave. I’m glad folks had a positive recollection of my service. That’s a legacy I’m honored to leave.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you Bruce. I am always pleased and encouraged by your Posts here. Even when raking leaves I am looking up because you just never know when God may send you yet another reason to smile.
    We are blessed beyond measure and you are on that long list of blessings. May your Thanksgiving be full of joy, peace and contentment as you consider how abundantly He has poured out His love upon us.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Kevin,
      As always, thanks for your kind words, and your linking to the blog. You actually can call it a column, since a shorter version with no pics appears in the Bargain Hunter as a column every week (
      Happy Thanksgiving!


      1. Ah, good about calling it a column! Hey, I was going to ask you, I saw where you said that you are in Holmes until the spring, do you know exactly when? I have a newborn at home so I’ve been pinned down more than usual but I just told my wife that I read you were going to be around until the spring and I’d like to go up to visit if you’d be game for meeting up and talking about your blog, maybe giving me and my readers a little tour of your favorite Holmes County haunts, etc? Would love that! – Kevin


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