It was the most embarrassing moment of my life, but the mimeographed letter made clear what I had to do:
“Since you have missed the Honor Roll for the second time this year, you are no longer a member of the National Honor Society. Please bring your pin and membership certificate to Miss De Luke in room 202 at your earliest convenience.”
My fall from academic grace was swift and hurtful. I had hit my stride as a student at the beginning of my junior year. I remember vividly how I beamed when at the end of the first marking period, our guidance counselor, Miss Jane Perry, came into our English class to announce that I stood first in the class for that six weeks.
At that time Miss DeLuke called me to her classroom and asked me to consider becoming Honor Society President the next year.
Six months later I was walking to her classroom to return my pin. I was mortified.
For some weeks previous I had felt unusually tired. A medical exam revealed that my Protein Bound Iodine (PBI) count was quite low. “This,” my doctor exclaimed, “could account for your diminished academic performance.” He then wrote a letter to the school explaining the condition in some detail.
Clutching the letter, I made a beeline for Miss Perry’s office. This will get me back in the honor society, I thought to myself. “After all, I have the gold standard Gordian Knot cutter for any school-related problem, a bona fide doctor’s excuse!”
“That’s too bad,” Miss Perry said, after reading the letter. “I’m glad you are being treated.”
“So, I asked, “Can I get back into the Honor Society if I get my grades back up?
Miss Perry’s unequivocal, “No,” slapped me across the face.
“I am sorry it happened,” she continued, “but the rules are the rules. You will not get back in the Honor Society.”
As I left her office the oft-repeated words of my hockey coach, Gil Adams, reverberated in my head: “When you play a game, no one cares that you had a cold, a sprained ankle or a stiff neck. All they will ask is, ‘who won, and what was the score.’”
At graduation, those in the Honor Society wore a gold tassel and a gold sash. I think I was the only one listed in the program as a High Honors (top five per cent) graduate without those adornments, and I felt humiliated. More than five per cent of the class walked that day with National Honor Society recognition.
Fifty plus years later, of course, it matters little. But the lesson the experience taught is with me every day:
Just do the best that you can, and don’t make excuses! Nobody cares about them anyway.
3 thoughts on “Embarrassing Moment; Priceless Lesson”
As in the military, the three answers are always “Yes Sir/Ma’am, No Sir/Ma’am, No Excuse Sir/Ma’am”. Excuses/explanations are of no value. The incident has already occurred. Move on having learned the lesson, having taken responsibility for your role in the incident..
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Considering the way in which you have utilized the experience, Rabbi Fuchs, it has become a source of energy-for-change-for-the-better …. It reminds me of a figure in our U.S. Navy (Admiral Chester Nimitz), who was court-marshaled as an Ensign, … thereafter transcending through a storied career as our nation’s Pacific Fleet Admiral, and subsequently our U.S. Signee of the documents comprising Japan’s unconditional surrender aboard the Battleship U.S. Missouri …. Transcendence ( ❤ )
Thank you so much, Mark, for this observation. I was unaware of Admiral Nimitz’ story.