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Still learning life lessons from teacher

The skies were bright blue and the blossom petals pink the entire week of the Cherry Blossom Festival until last Saturday afternoon. The weather predictors had warned us that thunderstorms were coming, but in my mind, I couldn’t envision such a perfect week ending in such a wet and windy way. However, even those strong storms couldn’t put out the pink spirit that engulfs our city during the one week of the year we shine the most!

Looking back over last week, my mind seems to be all a flutter with thoughts and images of our 29th Cherry Blossom Festival. There were so many activities and events planned the entire week that thinking about them reminds me of someone with a television remote constantly changing the stations. Image after image flashes across my memory and each one of them has a pink hue!

My wife and I were so honored to once again coordinate this year’s fashion show. We took a break last year and I really missed being involved. We had some wonderful models and helper bees. The entire show was centered on the “Circle of Goodness” theme and people who give back to the community in unselfish ways. It was a beautiful event on many different levels.

When I think back on the fashion show, I see a kaleidoscope of colors and butterflies. In fact, with the help of Don Mims, Brooks Dantzler and art students from area schools, we constructed an 8 foot by 8 foot butterfly that became the focal point of the stage. It served as the symbol of the show.

Butterflies have been popping up around me everywhere this year. I have incorporated them into many of my recent designs. One flew into my design for Bunko for Breast Cancer. Another couple flitted into my spring design for my T-shirts, aprons, note cards and prints. I also used this design for the program cover for the fashion show.

The butterflies that are in my recent designs have garnered much attention. Perhaps it is because of the transformation that is involved in becoming a butterfly. Or, it could be that butterflies are simply beautiful creatures that flit around bringing us joy. For whatever reason, I am fascinated by them. As an artist, they are a delight to paint because of their brilliant colors and the incredible detailing in their wings.

Last Saturday morning before the storms blew in, I was standing in my booth at the Mulberry Street Arts and Crafts Festival with all my colorful butterfly merchandise. I have loved participating in this event for many years because it allows me the chance to see and visit with so many people. Some of them are childhood friends from long ago and others are new acquaintances.

Something very special happened this past Saturday. My third-grade teacher, Ms. Faye Coleman, approached the booth and handed me a small envelope.

Because of my television and newspaper exposure, our paths crossed again several years ago. “I wanted you to have this,” she said as she gently handed it to me.

I carefully opened the envelope and saw the most beautiful handmade card with a three-dimensional butterfly that had been adorned and glittered. It was perched off center as if it had just lit on the front of the card.

When I opened the card, a glittered bee also greeted me along with a smiling flower. In beautiful penmanship (after all she was the teacher who taught me how to write in cursive), was this quote by Lewis Carroll. “There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.” It was signed by Ms. Coleman. Right above her signature were three words -- “Keep On Becoming!” This phrase really caused me to stop and think.

Just three little words offering some very powerful advice. “I created this card because I knew it was perfect for you,” Ms. Coleman said as we chatted at my booth. She was so right! On my journey to reach a national audience with the gifts I’ve been given, sometimes self-doubts and disappointments pop up just like those thunderstorms did last Saturday afternoon. There is absolutely nothing we can do about them except to face them, deal with them and move on!

We all need to remember that we are works in progress. We all need to keep on becoming who we are supposed to be.

It was worth getting all wet and packing up early to have received this inspirational card containing words of wisdom. I was hand-delivered another sign to continue on my journey to be the absolute best I can be. The amazing part was it came from, of all people, my third-grade teacher. How wonderful it is that I’m still learning from her after all these years.

Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; fax them to (478) 474-4930; call (478) 757-6877; e-mail to; or become part of Mark’s fan page on Facebook.