A Trail of Hearts 

Aristotle said, “The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts.” I think as humans our sum, i.e. who we are today, is a result of not only our genetic makeup, environment, relationship with God, but the influence upon our lives by those significant people that have been placed in our path as we travel our unique journey. We are indebted to the “sums” that have helped us become our “whole.”

I call these significant influencers in life my trail of hearts. Individually, I call them my hero.

Like too many of us, feeling loved and cherished as a little girl was not in my resume’. I struggled with believing I mattered.  Although I feel God has healed my heart in many ways, last November I had an unusual thing happen. All of a sudden I felt God drop this in my spirit, “Would you like to know one way I have been loving you your entire life?” I was taken by surprise and immediately responded, “Yes.” One by one God showed me the people He sent to lead me down the path.

He sent my first hero when I was only six years old. Her name was Ruth Springer Asper and she was my 1st grade school teacher. She wasn’t just a teacher that influenced my life for that school year. She remained in my life until she passed away when I was twenty-two years old. Why did she remain so faithfully in my life when she had literally hundreds of students over the years? I believe it’s because she knew how badly I needed her.

While in her class, she was kind, patient, attentive, and loving to a little girl that needed TLC.  In my mind, she was a valiant warrior protecting the little ones in her care. As I grew older she became a steady source of encouragement.  I still have every note she ever sent to me. Every time I had a significant accomplishment she would send words of affirmation like, “I’ve always believed in you” or “I’m not surprised at what you have accomplished, I always knew you would.”  Every letter included, “I’m so proud of you. Love, Ruth.”

Ruth Asper was a very petite woman, not quite five feet tall, and had suffered through polio as a young woman. She walked with a limp when I was in her class but a little more than a decade later she was forced to retire when her legs weakened causing her to fall often. This broke her heart. The students she taught were her children and she was somewhat lost without them. She kept every school picture and treasured them the rest of her life.

I will never forget the day I graduated from high school. Her husband, Roscoe, drove her  to my house. Because she couldn’t walk very well, I went out to the car to see her and slid in the seat next to her.  She handed me a gift. It was 2 identical necklaces – a long gold chain and a shorter silver chain. It came with a note. She explained that the longer gold chain was me, not just because I was taller but because in her eyes I was gold. She was the shorter silver necklace because she had silver hair. She went on to say that every time I wore the necklaces it would remind me that she was always with me, cheering me on and loving me. There was no stopping the big tears that flowed down my face.  What else can you do in the presence of unconditional love? That day I sat in the car next to my hero was 39 years and 4 months ago, but the emotion I remember even now makes it feel like yesterday.

We continued our special friendship until she passed from this life on June 24, 1981. It was a sudden death, at least to me. I attended her funeral to say goodbye.  Her husband was very kind to me and honored me with some of her possessions that I treasure to this day.  I married six months later. I longed for her to be there on that special day but that was not to be.  In her absence, I wore her 1937 high school graduation ring around my neck underneath my wedding gown.

God, can you do me a favor? Would you please tell Ruth Springer Asper that she made an eternal difference in the life of a little girl fifty-one years ago and the effects are still playing out.

The best way I know to honor my first hero and very special friend is to do for others what she did for me. I bet many of you had a Ruth in your life. If they are still alive I want to encourage you to call them or write a note and express your love and appreciation for what they added to your life. She believed in me. I will do that for another.

Mrs. Asper was the first in a trail of hearts that God sent my way. I cherish them all and every one has a special place in my heart that is forever theirs.

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