Pat Blumenthal has always been fascinated with apologies. In a Huffington Post blog, she shared how you can apologize to someone who has passed away. In her case, it was her Latin teacher, Mr. Keady, at Wilmington High School near Boston, MA. She was eager to learn Latin, but his classes were deadly boring -- mostly reciting the Latin form of words. Pat was a junior, and her first romance had just failed. Then her parents split up, and she was getting angry inside. Finally one day she let her emotions spill over in Latin class. She criticized Mr. Keady in front of the whole class for his out-of-date teaching style. Her rebuke was well-phrased and academically valid. She expected he would demand that she leave the class after hearing her rebuke. But he just looked tired. He thanked her for her feedback and promised to think about it. In the next few months he really did try harder, calling on Pat more often to discuss various points. Her complaint paid off, but she didn't feel like a winner.
In hindsight, she felt she owed Mr. Keady an apology. By being humble and not counter-attacking, he taught her that to be wounded does not mean you surrender your dignity. You can be both vulnerable and strong. It was a life-lesson she needed to learn. Mr. Keady has been dead many years now, but the lesson he taught Pat lives on. Even if she cannot apologize to him, she can still practice the lesson she learned from him, and that's better than an apology. As Maya Angelou said, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."