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Opinion :: Remembering John: The future history of a first Important T-Shirt
· 11:35am January 31st, 2013
Any adult who has ever had a T-shirt to commemorate a special event, team, or season, knows what it’s like, years later, to find that T-shirt in a box of old clothes – perhaps stained or worn out a bit, possibly a size or two smaller than the clothes currently in use.
I have a few of them.
I am sure you have one – or can remember it.
And I bet that when you opened that box and saw that T-shirt, you smiled. Or maybe wiped away a tear.
There are 100 or so children in the Vinton area with T-shirts like mine – a T-shirt they will see in a box in a few years – a shirt that will, one distant day, help them remember.
And for most of them, it is their very first Important T-Shirt.
Theirs, however, are white. Mine is black. In this case, that difference in color is very significant.
“Where John Counts” is the message on the front. “We ♥ John” is on the back.
Just two weeks ago, on Jan. 18, the students at Tilford gathered in the auditorium to see John, and to present him the $10,000 they raised for John.
Those who raised a $50 for John earned a free white T-shirt. Nobody else in the world has a white T-shirt like that; only those students who raised $50 or more earned one.
I have been to many events at area schools in the past 20 years as a journalist. Never have I felt as much crowd energy as I felt Jan. 18, when the students cheered as John walked in.
They were seeing John for the last time. Many of those students were wearing those white T-shirts with John’s name on the front.
This weekend, those students have to say good-bye to John.
John Scriven, the custodian, died this week of cancer. His memorial service is Saturday at Phillips Funeral Home.
Now, when the students see and wear those T-shirts, they will remember the events of December and January. They may laugh at the memory of Mr. Murray or Mr. Frazier or one of the other teachers kissing the pig. They may remember wearing their pajamas or silly hats to school.
And they will remember John, and what they did to help him in his final days. They will remember what they and their friends and teachers did to raise money for John and his fight with cancer.
Someday fairly soon, those T-shirts will be out-grown. They will fade. They will get lost under beds and in the back of closets. They will be placed in boxes of clothes that no longer fit.
And sometime down the road, a Tilford student – maybe as a Middle School or High School student, or even as an adult – will open a box and see that white shirt. And he or she will smile and perhaps wipe away a tear.
The same thing will happen to the Tilford teachers and the many others in our area who have black T-shirts like mine.
And even though the shirt no longer fits, it will go back into the box, where it will remain as a reminder of how a student body rallied around a janitor in the winter of 2012-13.
“Where John Counts” is the message on that shirt that will remain for a lifetime. That message will remind us of a specific man – a man who had an often overlooked and thankless job – and how that man inspired an entire school.
When those members of the 2012-2013 Tilford family see those shirts, they will remember John.
I hope they also will remember what they – and this community – did to help him in his final days.
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