Interview with the hero from Their Small-Town Love by Arlene James:
1. Ryan, tell me the most interesting thing about you.
I’m not a very interesting guy, really, just a teacher and a coach and a vice principal. I suppose you could say that I managed to overcome the shock and tragedy of my parents dying on the same day, my dad from an oil-field accident, my mom in a grief-stricken suicide, but you’d have to say that about my older brother Holt and younger sister Charlotte, too. Then again, we were blessed with godly grandparents, who made sure we had the spiritual strength to find joy in this life.
2. What do you do for fun?
This is going to sound corny, but I work for fun. I love what I do. It’s my calling. Every teenager who passes through my high school is important to me, and I’m not one of those who disparages the younger generation. I think they’re great fun. Other than that, I prefer to hang out with my family. When I have the time. Truth is, I don’t spend as much time with them as I’d like to, especially Grandpa Hap. He says he was born with a hospitality gene, which is why he’s owned and operated the local motel all these years, but I really think it’s a party gene, especially if you consider a domino game a party!
3. What do you put off doing because you dread it?
Paperwork. It’s all that administrative minutiae that drives me bonkers. Education is about people learning and growing, not about filling out forms.
4. What are you afraid of most in life?
Letting my personal passions get in the way of God’s will. It’s so easy to think that God is as enthusiastic as you are about something that pumps your own ego or seems to fill a selfish need. I consider my passion for education a gift from God, but passion can become a detriment to your calling and ministry. I worry that I won’t know when I’ve crossed that line.
5. What do you want out of life?
To fulfill my calling and make a difference in the lives of others, to impact as many lives as possible with knowledge and truth, and in the end to hear someone say, “Great job!” I guess that would have to be God.
6. What is the most important thing to you?
Boy, I had to think about this one. I guess I’d have to say relationships. My work is my passion, but it’s the people I manage to teach something important to who really make it matter. That ability to teach and hopefully to touch others comes from my foundation, though, which is my family. But what makes all that really work for me is my personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Without that, I don’t know that I’d value any other relationship as I ought to.
7. Do you read books? If so, what is your favorite type of book?
You’re joking, right? I mean, I am a teacher. You might say that books are my stock-in-trade, and since I am a history teacher…well, you do the math, as they say. I’ve read all of the classics, of course, but if you’re talking about personal pleasure here, I guess I’m pretty square and traditional but also pretty much of a guy. In other words, give me a good old rollicking western, a civil war novel with all the gritty battle details or a fast-paced suspense.
8. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
The truth is that I really don’t have much of a private life. Don’t get me wrong, my life is full of things and people I love, but they’re mostly tied to my work, so much so that I don’t even really know how to separate myself from it in order to get a private life. Good grief, that sounds pathetic.
9. Do you have a pet? If so, what is it and why that pet?
Right after I bought my house, I got a dog, an adorable beagle pup that chewed up everything it came across because I just didn’t have the time to spend with the poor thing. After that I tried a mutt, an older dog used to being outside most of the day, but I swear that animal could escape from Alcatraz. Someone said I needed a housecat, but the first disappeared like smoke. There one day gone the next. I went for the whole house menagerie next. Unfortunately, the second cat was an assassin, and really it was just a kitten. I didn’t figure out what happened to the bird until the goldfish disappeared. There’s a turtle living under my front porch. Does that count?
10. If you could travel back in time, where would you go and why?
Two words: HISTORY TEACHER. The question isn’t where would I go but where wouldn’t I go. I mean, just how right are we getting it? Think of all the questions I could answer, like how did the dinosaurs die out? Where was the Garden of Eden? How was Alexander the Great viewed by the common man of his era? Did Constantine really convert or was it just a political ploy? Was Abraham Lincoln as odd as they say, as complex as his legacy or more like our modern politicians than anyone wants to believe? If I must choose one destination, then walk me, literally, through the Bible, and if that’s too broad for you, put me on that hillside when Christ blessed those loaves and fishes. Or, better yet, send me to that upper room when the Risen Lord appeared to His followers after the crucifixion. Just imagine that, a taste of the future, when all believers will stand in the presence of the Risen Savior, from the past! Can’t get better than that.