By Rafi M. Ali, M.D.
Director of DarusSalam Seminary’s Tadrīs Integrated High School Program
Goodbye, Mr. Chips!
The fictional Mr. Chipping, ‘Mr. Chips’ as he was affectionately known to his students and colleagues, was the consummate teacher at Brookfield High, the all-boys boarding school. Mr. Chips started his tenure in 1870 as an awkward 22-year-old, an easy prey for pranks and mischief. With time, he grew wiser, armed with a ready rebuttal for all conceivable pranks as yet unconceived. He married late, but seemingly grew younger, only to prematurely lose his blissful life and perfect love to a random illness. Never the same person again for the remainder of his long life, Brookfield became life for Mr. Chips. Loved and esteemed by all, and crowned with the best accolades, he was finally forced into retirement by the cruelty of age. Even in his retirement, living in visual proximity of his beloved school, his parlor frequently hosted stray students and old friends, drawn by the offerings of milk and cookies, and a good conversation.
Then, word went around that the old master was dying. The news spread far and fast. On the fateful night, throngs of former students, many with their sons and grandchildren, came to say their final goodbye to their beloved Mr. Chips. As he lay on his bed, a frail old teacher with crumpled skin and cotton hair, whispers roamed the dimly lit room. One such whisper found its way to the ear of the old master, “Pity the old man didn’t have any children of his own.”
Mr. Chips, more to correct than to reprimand, ever so slowly, opened his eyes, and looking at no one in particular, gave one final lesson to his former student and answered the whisper with its equal. “I thought I heard you saying it was a pity…pity I never had any children. But you’re wrong. I have. Thousands of them. Thousands of them…and all boys.”
Indeed, an Excellent Teacher’s concern for the welfare of his students is enduring.
. James Hilton, Goodbye, Mr. Chips (New York: Laurel-leaf Books, 1982), 47.