Yesterday a little piece of my hometown/childhood found me in Pai, Thailand. Pai has a reputation as a great place for music. From amatures to professionals, you can find people picking away at the guitar or singing their hearts out at bars and open mic nights throughout the town. Nestled into a tiny corner bar was a Thai cowboy, playing the guitar and singing American folk songs in a thick accent. He strayed from his set when he played “What a Wonderful World,” a song I’ve thought of often during my travels that holds a special meaning for me.
The Louis Armstrong standard was my elementary school principal’s favorite song. Mr. Davis would play it for us at all-school convocations and it wasn’t uncommon to hear him humming the tune. Obviously, he wasn’t your average principal. He would come into the lunchroom (which doubled as the gym) and talk to the boys on bananas like a telephone. In the hall he’d playfully tug girls’ ponytails. He told us we were special and an important part of this wonderful world of ours. He was fun and he treated us like real people (an uncommon trait among adults – educators in particular). He loved his job, he loved kids, and we loved him back in return.
One summer day in church as a little girl – still in elementary school – the pastor announced that Mr. Davis had passed from cancer. I looked up at my mom for confirmation; “MY Mr. Davis?” She nodded sadly at me and I buried my face in the crook of her arm and cried. He was the first person I knew who died. I couldn’t have been more than 8 years old, but he made an impact that I carry with me to this day.
Mr. Davis seemed old to me then, but he couldn’t have been more than 40. I can’t imagine he explored much of the world, but what he saw was wonderful and I think he knew what else was out there was wonderful too. So this post is for you, Mr. Davis. From small town Indiana to exotic countries on the other side of the globe I can confirm your suspicions: the world really is wonderful.