Real Live Prof




I am oddly curious. I see this sign every day as I go to and from school. (It is on Highway 80, between Hallsville and Longview.) Not once have I ever been tempted to stop and ask why they put up the sign. To be honest, I was a little fearful about stopping and snapping the photo. Not once have I wanted to see if they would talk to me about the sign. It seems a harsh statement. I sometimes do wonder about how I shut people out of my life.

On the other hand, I do greet Dr. Bob Benefield every day. He is almost always the first one on campus in the morning. We always park in the same area, and if I get here early, I leave “his” spot open as a show of respect and deference. For years I would walk by his office on the way to the ‘fridge. I needed to drop my brown bag lunch and then turn on the computer and start rushing into the day. I would throw a, “Morning, Bob” his way. He would throw a cheery, “Morning” back at me. We rushed on. For years. My “keep out” sign was firmly in place.

And then, one day, we got to campus at about the same time. We walked into Marshall Hall together. About half way there, he asked me if I heard the mockingbird. Now the tricky thing about recognizing a mockingbird’s call is that it is known to not have a unique call. It simply mimics all of the other birds’ calls. So, to truly hear it, you have to listen to several calls, and then determine that they are all coming from the same bird. Bob then mentioned that this particular bird had been calling here for several weeks at about the same time every morning. Immediately I was convicted that I was very guilty of sprinting into my office to get the day going and that I was not even aware of God’s great creation testifying all around me.  

I love irony, (and puns) so at this point I’m guessing that God was taking out two birds with one stone that morning.  I soon realized that I was also missing out on another great benefit because of my “keep out” sign. Collegiality. I do not often think about, much less give thanks for, all of the smart people I work with. They richly bless my life. They help me solve so many of my problems and give good perspectives to my experiences. When I have electrical questions, I ask Randy; when I have financial questions, I ask Jimmy and when I have counseling questions, I ask Tom and JR (I’m sure it is wrong of me, but I secretly like that they often disagree with each other about their advice to me). All of my golf questions are referred to Dr. New. When I have questions about pop culture, I ask my classes. When I have questions about my generation, I ask my small group at church. (Again, I am oddly curious, and I am always asking questions.)

My life is sadly less when I tell people to keep out. Beside the “keep out” sign, on the business next door, there is a sign which proudly proclaims, “Open 7 Days”. This is the sign I want people to see on me. I want to be open to all of the wisdom around me, and I want to be a resource for those around me as well. (Just last week I caught Bob snapping photos of the sunrise; the same sunrise I squint into for miles and miles every morning. Maybe there is a beauty behind all of that harsh light that blinds me. Thanks again, Bob!)

What does your sign say?

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Mark Miller

Associate Professor of Sociology at East Texas Baptist University

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3 thoughts on “Real Live Prof

  1. Friend! We have been equally perplexed by the same sign! When I was driving from L’view to work everyday (now two years ago), I looked at this every morning and wondered what would make a person decide that they didn’t “need” any of us in the “out there”. I mean sure, people go around with that as their subconscious philosophy, but to go to the trouble to spray paint it on your gate/sign. Now that is a statement. Thanks for the thoughts. Good reminder for every day.

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