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Volume 18 Issue 3
September/October 2012

Vegetables: To Cook or Not to Cook

Ayurveda in Saskatchewan

The Mystique of the Sewing Room

A Vision for the Future – Organic Connections Conference 2012

The Gift of Forgiveness

Life Beyond The Smiling Mask

Inspiring Integrity

Objective Evidence vs Ideology on Environmental Issues


Inspiring Integrity
by Paul Elder
Paul Elder

Every now and then, out of the harsh realities of life, comes a story of extraordinary kindness and generosity. This is one of those stories. I know it’s true… because it happened to me.

Growing up in virtual poverty on a small Saskatchewan farm, I, like many other rebellious teenagers, placed little importance on the benefits of academia. It wasn’t that I wasn’t smart enough to pursue a formal education. I just didn’t care.

For me, high school was absurdly boring. I was going to play in the NHL, so why should I be wasting time studying? I went to school because I was forced to, and I made no apologies for my lethargic attitude. In fact, quite the opposite, I relished my reputation for thumbing my nose at the system, steadfastly refusing during Grade 12 to maintain even a single note book, or pay the slightest attention in class.

Most of the frustrated teachers in our small Catholic school pretty much left me to my own destruction. And had it not been for one person, our high school principal, Wes Dombroski, my life might have been radically different. Although I never understood why, this gentle man always treated me with kindness and respect, even, perhaps, when I didn’t deserve it.

With less than a month remaining in the final semester, Mr. Dombroski drew me into a couple of personal conversations, asking about my plans and aspirations for life. Although I appreciated his concern and good intentions, I continuously side stepped any serious reflection. But one day, he literally grabbed me by the shoulders, looked me straight in the eyes, and said, “Paul, why are you wasting your life? You are intelligent; you have great potential, and you’re wasting this entire year. You are going to flunk Grade 12, and you have no one to blame but yourself.”

Startled and on the defensive, I pushed back. “I … will not. You’re wrong. I’ll make it okay.”

“That,” he replied, “is a load of crap. You’re delusional. You are going to flunk. I’d be willing to put money on it. I’ll bet you 5 bucks per exam that you’ll flunk every one of them.”

“Bullshit,” I retorted, blood flowing to my cheeks. “I will not fail.” But, before I could say another word, he reached out, pumped my hand, and snarled, “Good, it’s a bet.” Then, spinning around, he stomped off, and that was that.

Stunned, I stood in the empty hallway, wondering what on earth had just happened. Good grief, I was taking nine subjects. At five dollars each, that was 45 dollars, not a small amount in 1970. There was no way I could come up with that kind of money. I had no choice. So, right then and there, I resolved to prove him wrong. “You better not be messing with me, Buddy, because you’re about to lose 45 bucks.”

Over the next three weeks, my every waking moment was spent buried in books. And when the day of truth arrived, as we waited impatiently for our report cards, I grew so nervous I could hardly breathe. Soon my fingers fumbled with the little tie-string on the envelope and I looked inside. Miraculously, I had somehow passed every single exam. My grades weren’t anything I could ever brag about, but darn it, I passed all my exams.

Mercifully, the bell finally rang, and as I bolted for the front door and freedom, one of the teachers called me back. “Elder, you’re wanted in the Principal’s office.”

Slipping in through the partially open door, I was greeted by Mr. Dombroski’s most authoritarian voice. “Well, Paul, it looks like you earned this,” he grinned, sliding an envelope across his desk. Surprised and deeply affected, I could hardly manage more than a shrug and a smile. “Thank you... Ah, thank you,” I coughed, trying to hide the growing lump in my throat. “Have a… have a nice summer, Wes,” I said, shaking his hand. Then I turned and quickly left the school lest anyone should see the moisture building in my eyes.

Twenty seven years later… near the end of a long day, a city hall secretary buzzed my office to announce that a gentleman had dropped by to see me. Grudgingly asking her to show him in, I tidied up my desk as the door opened and an old familiar voice jolted me to attention. “Well, Mr Mayor… how the heck are you? Remember me? It’s Wes, Wes Dombroski, your old high school principal.”

Well, you could have knocked me over with an eraser. It had been ages since I’d even thought of this man and yet a great emotional reverence flooded through me. “I’ve been watching you for years,” he chuckled enthusiastically. “All those years in radio and television, and then politics; I’ve been keeping an eye on you. You really are making a difference, lad. And I’m so proud of you.”

Humbled and appreciative of his kind words, I uncomfortably turned the subject, and we chatted amicably about the old days, until I recalled the very unusual bet that we had made so many years before. I had often regretted that I hadn’t shown him more appreciation at the time. Explaining that I hadn’t expected him to actually pay me the $45, I told him how much his honesty and integrity had meant to me.

Wes listened quietly, staring out the window as I spoke. Then, turning back to me, his eyes glistening, he pursed his lips reflectively, and as if speaking to himself, whispered, “It was some of the best money I ever spent.”

Minutes later we said our goodbyes and he left. I quietly closed the door, sat back in my chair, and suddenly 27 years of appreciation and tears welled up inside me, flooding down my cheeks.

Now, fourteen more years have passed and I remember these precious moments as if they happened yesterday. And even more so now, I want him to know how much he meant to me. So, if you’re still around on this side of the veil, my dear friend, or if you’ve already moved on to more tranquil class rooms, “God Bless you, Wes Dombroski. You really made a difference.”

Paul Elder is the author of the acclaimed book, Eyes of an Angel. He is a Remote Viewing instructor at the world renowned Monroe Institute. Please see The Monroe Institute display ad on page 37 of the 18.3 September/October issue of WHOLifE Journal for an upcoming workshop with Paul Elder. For more information visit www.paul-elder.com and/or call (250) 730-7701.


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