Is Latin hard? Sometimes. Is it worth it? Always!

I met a self-described Latin failure today.  He was an elderly gentleman, who drove me from my home to the auto shop where my minivan had just been serviced.  During the fifteen-minute ride, we chatted casually.  I asked him what he did when he wasn’t at the shop, and he said that he was mostly retired and spent a large amount of time napping and relaxing.  He asked me about myself, and I told him about my two companies, one of which specializes in online Latin tutoring.

“You mean Latin like Caesar?  Not Latin America?  They still teach that in schools?” 

He continued, “I took Latin for two years, a long time ago.”

I smiled politely, waiting for him to add the usual “amo, amas, amat” to the end of his statement.  He didn’t. (For some reason whenever people run into Latin teachers, they feel compelled to recite first conjugation verbs!  It’s kind of strange, but we get used to it after a while.)

“I read a lot, now that I’m retired--not Latin, but lots of history.  In Latin class we read about Caesar and Helvetia.  There’s a settlement of people in West Virginia from that part of the world, and they named their place Helvetia.  When I was in high school we took my grandfather there.  It was neat to see that place.”

“I was an awful Latin student,” he said.  “I remember that my high school had six grading periods a year.  I took Latin for two years, and that last grading period I earned a B+.  Before that grading period, I had Ds and Fs in Latin…but I got a B+ the last period of the second year.  That was in 1958.”

The crinkles around his eyes deepened and he almost giggled as he recounted that last report card.  53 years is a long time, more than a lifetime for some people.  I doubt that this man has read any Latin since 1958, but it was obvious that he was, and still is, very proud of his accomplishment.

Sometimes hard work is its own reward.

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