Saturday, July 7, 2012

Mr. P: Where Faith And Science Met

Mr. P was probably better known as Mr. Pellam back in the day at Northampton County High School. Back before it was East. He's retired now but he was the Physical Science, Biology, and Advanced Biology teacher. To the best of my knowledge, he was the only one on the faculty to have his Masters at the time (if there were others, forgive me, I didn't know). I graduated from there in 1977, so it has been a while!

While I may not remember everyone or everything, sometimes someone just makes such an impact on your life that you carry them through it. Mr. P. has been carried through mine.

So why am I thinking about him? Well, I've recently become friends with his daughter on Facebook and she made a comment on my page to the effect that "we'll have to talk." Did she really mean...

Expound and elucidate? Surely she did! She's a Pellam! Surely her Daddy taught her that phrase and tossed it around home just as much as he did in the classroom. "Dad, can we discuss...?" "Sure! Sit down and expound and elucidate." Father-child talks must have begun like that!

Back then we knew what he meant. I tell folks, today, to expound and elucidate and I get some really strange looks. And "huh?"s. That's still one of my favorite phrases. Thanks, Mr. P.

It was Mr. P. that instilled a love of science in me, particularly Biology. Particularly genetics. Oh, I didn't like Physical Science at all. Loved him, hated it. That was in the 9th grade. But 10th grade Biology, followed by Advanced Biology in the 12th grade, put me on the trajectory I've been on ever since. Can we say "Punnett Square"?

He pushed us. And we learned. Me? I fell in love with Biology. When we hit genetics the world opened up to me and at just the right time. I needed hope in my life and I found it in this man's classes. It wasn't just genetics and expound and elucidate. It was how he mixed his faith with his science. He could do that then. And did. Thank you, Mr. P.

I was still inwardly reeling from the death of my favorite aunt who had died at age 31 of brain cancer. In genetics I began to see there was a hope that by studying that I could, one day, find the cure for cancer. To this day, I still believe the study of genetics will unlock that door and is the key. That became my goal and my declared major when I enrolled at Meredith College after graduation.

And in Mr. P. I saw that faith and science worked together. God gave us all the sciences and science is a great tool. He talked about his faith and would encourage us to go to church. He could do that then in public school. He taught Sunday school and he lived what he taught. He loved us. Even the jerks we could be. We were teenagers. We could be know-it-alls, and he knew how to get through to us and command our respect.

This was back before I was aware that some people were against mixing God and science. I didn't know there was an issue and when I became aware of the issue, it wasn't one for me. Mr. P. had already solved that in my life. The two worked Hand-in-hand and science couldn't unfold a thing that caught God by surprise.

When I left the study of Biology in favor of Religion, for me it was a natural lateral move. Largely due to the seeds Mr. P. had already planted and watered. I never saw it as a step up or down depending on one's point of view.

I love science and technology. I'm the recipient of advances in both as I live with melanoma. As I take a picture with my cell phone (which I can put in my pocket!) and talk to other people who use theirs to surf the Internet. As I put my clothes in one machine and they get washed and I put in another and they get dried. As I drive my car with music playing and if I turn on Onstar, it will talk to me. As my mail will travel around the world for 45 cents even if I can't. As I can send other mail through wireless laptops as I...enjoy the benefits of science and technology.

Gifts from God's hand into our lives. The bones and fossils, the caves and ancient texts, the faith of our fathers, the galaxies and expanding spaces, the subatomic particles, the medicines, the research, the tried and true, DVDs and popcorn, transplants, and infusions. Babies and growing up and growing old and entering eternity.

Life and death. Faith and science. Expound and elucidate.

Thanks, Mr. P.

I'm not the only grateful student you ever had.