All of us have diamonds in our lives. Maybe we don’t have diamonds on our fingers or around our neck, but when we slow down our never ending rush to get through life and shove the noise and clutter aside, the real diamonds, the ones that really matter, come to light. Diamonds that are more precious and valuable than any gem mined from the ground. Diamonds that can never be taken from you; they are the rocks on which your life is built. They are mined from your life experiences, your heart, and your soul. They are the people who stand above all others; people who make and made you the unique person you are; people who believed in you and still do; people who supported you when they would have been wiser to run; people who protected you from the storm; people you depended on when the world and even some friends turned away; and people who stood beside you when you were alone. Most often these people are family and close friends who know your heart better than anyone, but sometimes that special person, that diamond, is someone you work or worked with such as Rosie.
Rosie and I are now retired, and rarely see each other anymore, but I recently saw her in a local store, and as always she greeted me with a hug and a smile that radiated she was truly glad to see me. That was the same smile she greeted me with every morning of my fifteen years as an assistant principal and principal, but not just me, she greeted everyone with that smile, which didn’t cheapen it in the least since everyone knew it was genuine. She was secretary for close to thirty years to the first three principals at Petal High School ending with me. She knew every student by name, over a thousand of them at the time, served the teachers with passion, and kept the administration in line. She had her hand on the pulse of everything from curriculum, don’t think for a moment that she didn’t know what kids were supposed to know and be able to do, to discipline (If you ever get her alone, get her to tell you the “two socks” story). For thirty years, Miss Rosie, as the kids called her, was Petal High School, or like I think of it – Rosie Kinard High School. No one ever gave their heart and soul to a school more than Rosie. Working at Petal High School was not a job for her; it was her school, her kids, her teachers, her principal and assistant principals – it was her life!
When I was named principal of Petal High School, Rosie became my life support. She was my secretary, actually she was everybody’s secretary, but she was so much more than that. To the kids she was a mama, a counselor, and a friend; to the teachers she was their biggest fan and supporter; for me, she was my partner. Together we ran the school. This tiny woman was a fireball of energy, still is, who knew more about the school in her little finger than I would ever know. She was the glue that in many ways held the high school together; she certainly held me together. I learned early, as I am confident the principals before me learned also, to bounce ideas off her. As principal, I could often gauge how teachers would react to my ideas by her reactions. If I ran an idea by her, and she said, “Oh, that is wonderful, why haven’t we thought about that before,” I knew the chances were good the teachers would be excited about the idea as well, or if she said adamantly, “That’s what is best for these kids,” I knew there might be a fuss, but it would be worth the fight. However, if she responded with something like “You’re the principal, so I don’t see that there should be a problem,” I knew the odds were good the “ice cream” was about to hit the fan. I learned to value her opinion and look for her insightful cues, and by doing so, she helped me become a better person and especially a better principal.
Rosie is what my grandfather called “good people,” to which I would only add “REALLY good people!” She cared about people not because of their position, who they were in the community, economic standing, the color of their skin, or the persuasion of their heart; she cared about them because she truly loves and cares about people. As school secretary, she was compassionate to all people – children, teachers, parents and school administrators. She was not perfect; she could get feisty at times, but if she did, she would apologize for days afterwards. In the history of Petal High School, there have been many diamonds that should not be overlooked, but I was there for 25 of the school’s first 40 years, and I can say no one was more important to the success and reputation of Petal High School than a little lady who made “peanuts” for a salary. She gave her all to the school she loved, and when she retired, she took a piece of all us with her, but she left behind an integral part of the foundation Petal High School is built upon – her heart.
I am blessed to have many diamonds in my life, but Rosie will always be one of my very special diamonds. She didn’t have to be there for me; she could have chosen to be a part of the storms, but rather she chose to take a young principal under her wing and protect him from the storms. As a result, our time at Petal High School became a triumphant journey of adventure and fulfillment. I always sincerely thank the students and teachers for that, but without Rosie Kinard, Petal High School would have been and would be today just another good high school. Through her energy, courage, encouragement, passion, and compassion she helped mold the high school into the great school it is today. Rosie is the real deal. She is a diamond that I cannot thank enough for being there for me when I needed her.
So, if you see her about town, take notice of her infectious smile, and don’t be surprised if you get a hug. Thank her for what she has meant to the Petal Community and the thousands of lives she has touched. Tell her “Thank you;” she deserves it, and she has most definitely earned it.
Rosie, thank you for being a diamond in my life!
©Jack Linton, April 30, 2016