On a whim, I changed routes on my daily walk which catapulted me to an unexpected delight.  An empty flatbed truck passed, causing me to wonder if they were lost on this dead-end street and I’d be asked for directions. Then, when another passed, my intuitive possibility-thinker jumped to attention and I surmised, “Hmm, I wonder if they’re headed to Bill’s house? If so, certainly one of the kids should be there.” (Bill had died while I was out of town a couple months ago and I’d had no way of contacting his children.) Now, I was getting excited. I closed the book I was reading and hurried.

Arriving at the cul-de-sac where the yellow-shirted guys had convened, I asked “Are any of you related to the man who lived here?” “No”, one said, “We’re workers cleaning out his house, “but there’s someone up there who probably is.”  I hiked up the steep drive toward a woman and was surprised when she said “Hello, Mrs. Ward, you may not remember me, but I’m Lynn, Bill’s daughter. I had you in many classes.” “I remember you, Lynn and am so glad you’re here.” We chatted a little while about Jim’s and my friendship with her dad. I was grateful for the opportunity to finally extend my condolences.

On the way home I reflected on the value of the friendship with Lynn stemming from substitute teaching and began to reminisce about how that all came about because of a suggestion from John, a leader in the mission who was a high school teacher.  He was interested in my part time secretarial jobs through an agency to supplement our income and asked, “Why don’t you apply for substitute teaching? Substitutes are in high demand right now; the pay and hours would be better.”  I took his suggestion and made an appointment with the school superintendent. After Dr. G.’s interview he said, “I realize that while you are not certified in every area but based on your background of speaking, writing and leading seminars, you are certainly qualified.”

When the first call came for eighth grade Middle School, I was a bit nervous until I walked into the room and spotted my daughter, Kay. John was correct about the demand because I was called nearly every day and for many different classes, including music, band, art, Guidance Counselor, shop, as well as English, math, health, special needs. The administration picked up that I was a good disciplinarian.

High-school began to call for classes in art, Geometry, algebra, Latin, sociology science, biology, history, Spanish, French, Home Economics, Guidance Counselor, business, etc. and the ‘rubber room’ for in-house suspension. I had some very good discussions with those students. One of my fond memories was the day I was assigned to Calculus and was standing outside the classroom door when one of the students who was a member of our church and knew me quite well asked surprisingly, “Mrs. Ward, are you going to teach Calculus?” “No, Mark, I’m going to ask you to lead the class.  Same with Biology and Geometry. I never pretended to know what I didn’t. When students would ask, “Do you speak Spanish”, I’d say teasingly, sure. “Taco”.

High school called so often, that I eventually subbed there exclusively. During free periods and quiet study halls, I was free to read or write while writing passes to the library, etc. and keeping my eye on the students.  Highschoolers were very quiet and I appreciated time to finish the writing course, articles and a couple of books in longhand--in those days before laptops. A special perk of substituting was riding to and from school with my kids.

In the thirteen years of almost full time, I got well acquainted with the administration, teachers and students.  And especially got to know our children’s friends. In the 32 years since, running into students and teachers at doctor’s offices, football games, aerobics and aquatic classes is always a special treat. Recently, the manager at a roadside market greeted me, “Hi Mrs. Ward, do you remember me? (They all ask that). I’m Mike, M. I had you in high school.” His name was familiar but when I looked at him, I remembered him very well. “Was I good?” he asked. “You were”. I assured him. “Did I turn out okay?”  “You have turned out marvelously”, I replied.  What warm memories! A few days ago, as I chatted with the tree expert taking out a couple of dead trees, reminded me “You were my guidance counselor in Middle School and in High School, and for a lot of classes.”  I remembered him well.  Meeting the teachers for whom I subbed is also refreshing. I cherish these relationships and consider substituting an invaluable experience--priceless.

Initially, finding a fulltime job was a sacrifice because I had more than enough to do at home as well as responsibilities involving our congregation and the denominational association and state convention leadership meetings. The sacrificial investment for financial reasons ended but the continuing dividends from it is an excellent example of serendipity. I trust that you have experienced “a have to” which developed into an unforgettable experience for which you would never have planned.

Examples from the dictionary for common uses of Invaluable:

In especially difficult circumstances, Finding the help of a financial therapist can be invaluable. TIME.

Your personal training and kindness in dealing with a lot of things was invaluable. CNN.

Technology is invaluable in a number of ways during the preservation process. Wired.

As far as coping with anxiety, getting involved with conversations with other men on online support communities was and still is invaluable. Philly.

He's been invaluable in pushing the district in the direction we needed to be pushed. Baltimore Sun

Other people can be invaluable sources of spiritual nourishment that will dramatically speed up your development. Huffington Post

Wireless sensors are an invaluable part of modern society. Fast Company.

The learning that takes place out of school during summer is invaluable. CNN.

Since invaluable, valuable and validate are often used interchangeably the last part will focus on valuable and validate.

Valuable usually refers to something that is worth a lot of money and would net a good price. But when value is applied to a person or to ourselves, its meaning is enhanced.

Recently, after hearing a Senior moan, “I feel so unnecessary; there’s nothing that I can do for anyone anymore since I’m afflicted and old.  No one really needs me, or receives any uplifting from me. I’m more trouble than I’m worth,” I thought it would be a good subject for all of us.

Jim often used the word value in describing the attitude we should have toward everyone—even toward those we have difficulty liking. “We need to value ourselves”, he said. Isn’t it true that we all get on our own nerves, at times? We lose patience with our inability, clumsiness or lack of patience or generosity. People of all races, ages, financial, spiritual and/or political preferences experience personal putdowns.   Have you said anything like this? --(I quiz myself with the same question) --are you harder on yourself than on your friends or relatives? Forgiving ourselves is often more difficult than forgiving others.

Validate is showing a person that you accept him/her as they are even though you don’t understand how they feel. By maintaining eye contact, listening quietly, giving them plenty of time to think and speak and asking “what do you mean” proves that you genuinely care about them and are trying to understand their dilemma. “I like who you are”, or “You are special to me” is what they need to hear.

My brother John made two insightful comments about this subject: “I often tell those who come for counseling, ‘Be careful how you talk to yourself’; and he shared a true story: When a surgeon said to his associates, ‘Well, let’s do the surgery on this worthless human being’, his partner said, ‘do not call someone worthless for whom Christ died. ‘

Jesus said: Consider the ravens. They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. How much more valuable you are than birds. (NIV) Luke 12:24.

...I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power…to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Eph. 3:17-19 (NIV)