Not what it seems.

My teacher had a file folder of brief, two-person plays. It was the mid-80s, and I was in third grade.

A classmate and I — we’ll call her Marissa — decided we’d try our hand at theater one day. OK, a bit of an exaggeration, but we plucked two laminated cards from the folder and went outside to read them during recess.

I can’t remember what the play was about, but I do remember that Marissa wasn’t sure how to pronounce “OK.”

As we got to the line where she had to utter two simple letters in a slightly irritated tone, she couldn’t do it.

She paused briefly, then I heard it:

“Awk, awk,” she said. I was confused, as it seemed like a bird had just entered the scene.

“What are you doing?” I asked her.

“Reading the play,” she said. She didn’t realize it was “OK” that should’ve been uttered, not the first syllable of awkward or lock, minus the “L.”

I was mildly amused. Months before, our class had taken a field trip to the newly hatched Orange County Performing Arts Center to see an abbreviated version of Swan Lake.

One of the dancers’ names was Sean, and when we returned to school and were quizzed on the performance, I replied with his name when our teacher asked us about the stars of the show. As she wrote “S-E-A-N” on the board, Marissa piped up.

“You spelled his name wrong. It’s not seen, she said, it’s S-H-A-W-N.”

“Well, there’s another way that you can spell his name,” our teacher said. “This is the way he spells his.”

Marissa was dumbfounded. How can that be? Her face was perplexed and she didn’t say a peep after that. She was wrong, and now the whole class knew it.

She was a child who loved being right, but she was slipping. First seen, now awk. What next?

I have no idea what happened to her, but to this day I think of her when I correct people. In a way, there’s a bit of Marissa in me, too. I think there is in all of us.

Sometimes a word isn’t as it seems. Other times, it’s a person. Maybe it’s a job. Either way, there’s much to be learned about the way a person deals a situation, and there’s much to be learned from them. Will we learn from them? Will we realize that which we’re thankful for, or will we pass it by?

Tonight I am thankful for the things that we’re supposed to take meaning from, and I’m thankful that for those things that were meant to teach us. They may come in the form of a know-it-all or they may not, but their lessons are all the same in terms of their value.

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