My dear Mr. Blum,
Junior year of 98-99 is very vivid in my mind for many reasons, your Bible class being one of them. Juniors and seniors gathered into room one of the first modular of Cooper campus, a jaunt down the road from Gil’s and the old Cooper café. Our shoes crunched over pea gravel and scraped the concrete before we crammed into the middle schoolers’ desks. I can pull from the cluttered shelves of my mind so many images: the brown carpeting, dusty chalkboard, teenagers scribbling notes, boys with bleached hair flinging rubber bands and launching paper airplanes, girls fixing their ponytails in the narrow bathroom and painting their finger nails. But when your booming voice signaled like a bell for us to take our seats, all attention was drawn to your mesmerizing way of relating Biblical history to a motley crew of doubtful disciples. We sat silent like young children enthralled with daring tales, legends, and heroes of King Arthur’s court or Troy’s ancient war battles. This was all True and was Big, plunging more depths than we could have dared to hope.
We all came from various backgrounds and homes. Yet we were still young men and women who had grown up in churches and had various Christian influence which had drawn us all together into a disjointed, disproportionate body of brothers and sisters forced to grow up together and empathize, love, trust, and forgive to prepare us for higher things still. (God is so kind to us to give us these glimpses of heaven.) We knew Sunday school stories and had doggedly memorized verses, but then you asked us ethical questions. You brought up moral dilemma. When we thought we knew the right answers about sin and death and suffering and eternal life, you told us to ‘hang on a minute’ as you held your hand up in the air to pause the class and asked us another question right back. You challenged our preconceptions and assumptions, taught us not to gloss over words like ‘therefore’ or ‘in order that’ within Paul’s letter to the Roman church, and I will never forget your historical explanation of the Roman guard outside of Christ’s tomb. For a band of malleable seventeen year-olds, it was like frantically sucking ragged breath into lungs that have been underwater for far too long.
There are people who can sing ancient things to life with their passion and faith, and you, Mr. Blum, did that every day for your students. Heritage has this achingly dear place within my soul, and it is precisely because we went to school in dilapidated old trailers where humble teachers rolled their worn sleeves and went to work on what was truly good and beautiful in life, instead of worrying about outward appearances or perfection. It was so palpable to me my senior year that I dreaded leaving that sacred space. I can never, ever repay that ministry and sacrifice except to do the same in my own classroom of students. I believe that we are the collection, the living legacy of those that go before us, who teach us, who pour into us. So thank you for that before I was wise enough to know to ask for it, and for seeing the image of God within each student when they often don’t recognize it themselves.
Erin (Daam) Uminn – Class of 2000