I have met a handful of truly gentle souls in my life, most recently while working for the King Fahad Academy in London six years ago. Mohammed Baba was a science teacher there for several years by the time I arrived, and had become an integral part of the academy. He was African, and I can't remember from which country; normally I attend to such details as I enjoy culture and often think in those terms. Mohammed was different though, his gentleness and kindness transcended ethnicity, heritage, race, religion, or geography - it just seemed kinda pointless to try to locate him in any other place than as a sweet human being.
Mohammed and I worked together quite a bit in my capacity as Director of Academic Affairs and his role as Head of the Science department. He was always so helpful and kind, and I knew I could rely on him to do anything, even as he was perpetually overloaded with work. Always busy because he loved the school and its students, and was always prepared to pitch in, even if he was doing more than the others around him. Mohammed came to work early and left late, never complaining, never comparing himself to others. I admired him greatly for this.
I had the chance to see his effect on students in several instances, and I could tell, like me, they recognized the incredible depth of goodness inside him and loved him for it. If not, they would have run all over his good nature. I taught a lesson for him on some particular statistic, I believe it was Chi Square, and I enjoyed my interaction with the boys. They were a bit surprised that I was their teacher that day, but when they answered my questions correctly, it was not I that they looked to for approval, it was Mohammed sitting off to the side patiently watching. His tender smile became theirs.
Mohammed also helped me out by sending a small contingent of students to my office to advise me on a new code of student conduct. The boys, much like their mentor, worked very diligently at the task and produce an equitable, balanced set of guidelines that I was very proud of. They focused first on their responsibilities and eventually on their rights. Years later when a particularly evil soul charged the academy with educating terrorists (something the nation's wretched tabloids embraced), I wished I could have returned and showed them that simple document those young Muslim boys and their teacher had produced. Too simple and sincere though for the jaded adult palate these days.
I don't know how well Mohammed was appreciated at the King Fahad Academy before I got there or after I left - I only know how much I valued him as a teacher and as a man with so many graceful gifts that I lack. I miss him.