The campus of Jefferson Uníversity was beautiful right after the rain. It had
been raining all morning, but shortly after lunch it had cleared up and the
weather was now warm and sunny with a cool spring breeze. The familiar gray
buildings were almost white in the sunlight and the trees were a bright green.
At this time of day, the students were supposed to be in class or studying at
the library, but this afternoon the campus was filled with noisy young couples
walking around the wet campus.
It was a perfect day for walking, buí that wasn't why Lawrence Henderson was
going so slowly down the street in the direction of the campus apartments. He
felt miserable. Several weeks earlier, a commercial laboratory in town had
asked him to work for them at almost twice the salary he was getting as a
teacher. He still didn't know what to do. "I like teaching," he thought, "but I
have to think about my famíly, too."
When Lawrence and Lisa had first come to Jefferson Universíty five years earlier,
they had been happy. Lawrence liked his classes and he was very pleased when the
uníversity helped him get the things he needed for a small laboratory in the
Lawrence's salary had been enough for the two of them. They purchased a new car
and bought some things for their apartment. They were able to go out on the weekends
to the theater or to concerts. And Lawrence had time — time to prepare his lessons
and continue studying at home and in his small laboratory — time to visit his
friends and his fellow teachers — and time to think about the years ahead. He and
Lisa had decided they would like to spend the rest of their lives at the
Now, after only a few years, he was thínking of leaving the university.
Everything looked different. The campus apartment which had been large enough
for a young married couple was much too small for a famiíy of four. Their new
car was now five years oíd, and they hardly ever went out on weekends. With two
noisy little boys in the small apartment, Lawrence couldn't get any work done
during the day and there was very little time in the evenings.
"If I work for the commercial laboratory," Lawrence thought, "we'll be able to
buy a large house and a new car. My famiíy will have all the things they need
and a lot more."
There was something else bothering Lawrence. too — something he couldn't talk
about to anyone. For five years he had been teaching one class after another.
His students sat in their seats and listened to hím, but were they really
learning anything? Or were they forgetting all
that he had taught them as soon as they left his class? His students were with
him every day for a few months, and then they were gone; and he didn't know if
his teaching had made any difference in their lives.
"How does a person know if he's been a success ¡n his profession?' Lawrence asked himself. And then he remembered what the president of the university had
saíd to him five years before: "We need men like you at Jefferson University. As
a chemistry teacher, you won't make nearly as much money as you would in a
commercial laboratory, but you can't always measure success by the size of your
At that time, Lawrence had agreed with the president, but now he wasn't so sure.
"What else is there?" he thought.
When he got home, his wife told him that a student had telephoned during the
afternoon. "His name is Bob Cole," she said. "He was in one of your classes a
couple of years ago. He wanted to talk to you and I asked him to come to the
house this evening."
When the young man came in a short while later, Lisa left the room to prepare
some coffee. Lawrence remembered Bob Cole very well and he was glad to see him.
"What are you doing now?" he asked. "Aren't you working as a salesman?"
"No," Bob answered. "I didn't really want to be a salesman and I want to thank
you for helping me decide what I should do."
"Thank me?" Lawrence said. "I don't understand. You never spoke to me about it."
"I didn't have to' Bob said, "but you did help me."
"I used to think," Bob answered, "that it didn't matter what I did at the
university. I just wanted to finish school and go to work. But then I spent six
months in your class and everything changed. You made chemistry so interesting,
I decided to continue studying science and I'm now preparing to be a doctor."
"I'm glad you told me, Bob," Lawrence said. "We all like to know when we've been
able to help someone."
"Why, Mr. Henderson," Bob argued. "I'm not the only one who was helped by you.
Do you remember Howard Nichols?"
"Of course. He was in my class last year," Lawrence answered.
"Well, he's teaching chemistry now and I know he decided to be a teacher while
he was in your class."
Lawrence was so pleased to hear all this, he didn't know what to say. He was
glad when Lisa interrupted them with the coffee and cake.
While they were eating, Bob said, "By the way, Mr. Henderson, my younger brother
is here at Jefferson University now. He wants to study science, too, and I've
told him to wait until he could get into your class before taking chemistry."
When Bob got ready to leave, he said, "Thank you again, Mr. Henderson, for not
letting me make a mistake."
"I have to thank you, Bob," Lawrence said to him, "for taking the time to come
and visit me. You've helped me more than you know. I hope you'll come again soon."
"Lisa," Lawrence said after Bob Cole had gone, "I don't know what made that boy
visit us at this time, but it was awfully nice of him." Lisa agreed. "I wish
more students would come and tell you what they are doing," she said.
"Oh, I think I understand. They're too busy with their own lives to think about
these things," Lawrence answered. 'I've never said anything about this before,
but it wasn't just the money that made me want to leave teaching. I didn't know
if I was a success as a teacher. The students rarely said anything and I often
thought my teaching didn't make any difference in their lives. This bothered me
more than anything else. Bob Cole is only one student, I know, but that's enough.
If I helped one student, I guess I helped others, too —and I feel much better
A few days later, Lawrence Henderson wrote to the commercial laboratory to tell
them that he had decided to continue teaching at the university. "I hope you
agree," he said to his wife.
"Of course I agree," Lisa answered. "We'll still get a new car and a large house,
but it will take a little longer, that's all. Now that you've decided, I have
something to tell you."
"All this time I thought you would be making a mistake if you went to work for
that commercial laboratory. You don't belong there. You'd be miserable if you
were by yourself in a laboratory all the time. That is fine for some men, but
you need people around you. You need your students as much as they need you."