October 24, 2013


My little sister was responsible for getting me the best after-school gig an academy girl could have. She told her second-grade teacher that her big sister needed a job, and before I knew it, Mrs. Irma Brayley agreed to let me grade papers for her after school.

It was fun. Every afternoon I’d walk across the parking lot to the elementary school side of Loma Linda Academy to Mrs. Brayley’s room, where wiggling second graders would be winding down their day. She’d have the worksheets she needed graded ready on the semicircle-shaped table by the window, and I’d settle into a small yellow plastic chair to correct math or vocabulary pages.

Mrs. Brayley was special. Her kids loved her—I know my sister did. She was kind, fair, and ran a tight ship in that class. When parents stopped by to discuss their child’s difficulties, I’d listen to the compassionate way she helped them understand what their child needed to succeed.

But beyond being my boss, she also took an interest in me and whatever drama my life entailed at the moment. Some days the grading load was light, and she’d take time to chat with me about anything I wanted to talk about, sharing her wisdom or just a listening ear. It meant a lot.

I was privileged to work for her my freshman and sophomore years. At graduation (her son was in my class) she gave me a card saying how proud she was of me, wishing me success in whatever lay ahead. I’ve never forgotten that, or her.

Now, 20 years later, I remember a woman who made a difference in my life in more ways than she probably thought she would. Each of us can do the same.