Contact Us

How a Piece of Paper Changed My Life

It was a typical boring day as I sat in my senior high school English class attempting to write an original poem. The challenging assignment had been given to each class member by our teacher, Ms. Getty, a woman who carried herself with a stately air of dignity and whom no one had ever seen come close to displaying any facial gesture that resembled a smile.

After several attempts at scribbling down and scratching out some rhyming verses, I crumpled my paper into a tight paper ball, walked over to the green metal trash can located by the door of the class room, and nonchalantly tossed the paper ball into the waiting receptacle. As I turned to walk back to my desk, from the front of the classroom, where Ms. Getty sat keeping a watchful eye on her anxious students, I heard a stern and steady voice slowly enunciate the words, “We will have none of that in my classroom, Mr. Cox. Please remove the paper ball from the waste receptacle, unfold it until it is flat, and slowly place it into the waste receptacle again. You will be more efficient in your discarding of waste and be able to put more paper in the waste container when the paper is flat instead of crumpled.”

As I obeyed Ms. Getty’s stern admonition, and as I slowly placed the now unfolded flat piece of paper in the trash can, I was amazed to realize that old Ms. Getty had a point. If you crumple paper and toss it in a garbage can (No one used the word recycle in those days.), you reduce the amount of paper that the can will hold. She was teaching physics as well as English. Amazing!

Not only did I obey Ms. Getty that day, but I also followed her instructions to place an uncrumpled flat piece of paper in the waste receptacle in her classroom every day for the rest of the semester. What’s even more amazing is that for the last forty-plus years of my life, I have never crumpled a piece of paper when placing it in a trash can.

You never know when a few words that you speak to another person will have a lasting impact on their life. So, be careful about what you say. You might be changing someone’s life for better or worse.

Thank you, Ms. Getty!




Get a Quote