Education Matters: Witnessing the power of love

Editor's Note: Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber’s “Education Matters” column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.

I've been invited to some very interesting weddings of former students over the years. Going back 30 years ago, one of my all-time favorite students, Melineh, invited me to my first Armenian wedding — I came to the church at the time mentioned on the invitation and found myself in the parking lot with no other cars and five minutes to go for the start of things.

A full half-hour after the appointed time, people began arriving. It was explained to me later that Armenian weddings rarely start on time, so I learned and made the adjustment for future invitations.

When the bride and groom made their appearance at the reception, they came in dancing and proceeded to snake their way around all the tables, picking up guests to join in. The song lasted about 45 minutes, and just about all of the 400 people in attendance were part of a very long line, including a handful of us who weren't moving like everyone else. But it was a blast, and what a marvelous way for these two young people to celebrate the moment.

It was also a fitting prelude to the feast that followed. When it comes to food, Armenian weddings are like Italian weddings, with food enough for three times the number of people in attendance. (My wife is Italian, and I know of what I speak.)

One of the more interesting weddings of two former students involved a Romanian groom with a Korean bride. Two ministers presided, one Korean and one Romanian, each alternating speaking the words of the service, with those few of us English-only speakers straining to understand and looking forward to the reception.

This wedding, and a number of others I've attended over the years that joined two people with different backgrounds, left me with a good feeling by providing a perfect portrait of this melting pot of a nation that I have been teaching about. It also stirs the romantic in me, who believes in the power of love to overcome all obstacles, including those who would say, "Stick to your own kind."

My very favorite wedding had me giving away the bride who was a former student (as was the groom), and therein lies a tale. I still remember two painfully shy students in my class who were "brought together" by their teacher, and the rest, as they say, was history. The young man came to me after class one day and explained his dilemma: "I want to ask her out, Mr. Kimber, but I don't have the courage. What's your advice?"

I don't normally get involved in such things, and it's not exactly my area of expertise, but these two kids, who I had come to know individually, seemed to need a little assistance in getting to know each other. And so, for the one and only time in my profession, I played cupid.

One day I announced a new seating arrangement in the class, putting them next to each other. Another day I assigned group projects that required members of each group (with these two in the same group) to meet after school on their own time. There were classroom activities that involved student pairings — it didn't take long for them to suspect what I was doing.

They were juniors when they met in my class, and they were seniors when they got around to dating each other. After they graduated I put them from my mind until, several years later, they came to visit me. They walked into my class hand in hand with big smiles and very happy news for their old teacher. They were going to get married and wanted me to be part of the ceremony.

I was asked to stand in for the father of the bride who had died before he could see his daughter married. It was an honor beyond all others I had or ever would receive as an educator.

"Who gives this bride?" the minister asked after I escorted my former student to the altar.

"I do," was the response I was given to say.

Before I sat down, I looked at these two sweet children (that is how I shall always see them), each coming from different backgrounds — in this case including national, cultural and racial — and experienced one of those sublime moments that will stay in my memory for as long as I live.

I was so happy for these two, so proud to have played a small role in their new life together, and convinced more than ever before — never underestimate the power of love.

DAN KIMBER taught in the Glendale Unified School District for more than 30 years. He may be reached at DKimb8@sbcglobal.net.

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