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  • Doug Tjapkes

Watch your mouth!

I wonder what my mom might have been. I say that because something rotten happened to her when she was just a kid. That episode helped mold her into the beautiful person that she became, but one can’t help but wonder. Born in 1914 of humble parents in Muskegon, Mary Trap wasn’t like her other sisters and brothers. Not only was she a “tom-boy,” playing street hockey with the neighborhood guys, but she was an avid reader of books. How she loved prowling through the treasures at the Hackley Public Library! That led her to a love of poetry and writing, and that led to a tragic chapter, and I don’t minimize the word “tragic.” She submitted a writing assignment as a high school student, and it was rejected! The teacher accused her of plagiarism! The piece was too good. Could not possibly have been written by his student. Those of you who knew Mary Trap Tjapkes need no persuasion that she would never cheat. But for the moment, it broke her spirit. She was so ashamed, and never told anyone for decades. Sometimes I wonder if she ever fully recovered from that devastating moment. Many years later, I wish I could have found that teacher to tell him not only what a jerk he was, but to explain the impact of words. That dastardly deed by an insensitive educator may have changed my mom’s career path. Her love for writing took a serious hit. But on the other hand, I’m convinced that it taught her a valuable lesson. Roy T. Bennett explains it this way: “Be an Encourager: When you encourage others, you boost their self-esteem, enhance their self-confidence, make them work harder, lift their spirits and make them successful in their endeavors. Encouragement goes straight to the heart and is always available. Be an encourager. Always.” As we observe the birthday of Mary Tjapkes on January 28, we will remember her as an encourager. She was an encourager to her family, to friends, and yes, even to strangers. It was not uncommon for my mom to be a pen pal to a prisoner. Her son does his best to encourage prisoners to this day. No, she didn’t find fame and fortune as a writer. Sadly. But, in her own little corner of the world she was a bright shining light, radiating love and encouragement, especially to the downtrodden, the sad, lonely, and disenfranchised. What a legacy! RIP, Mom. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. Ephesians 4:29

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