TED2007

Jok Church: A circle of caring

Filmed:

In this 3-minute talk, cartoonist and educator Jok Church tells a moving story of the teacher who cared for him when no one else did -- and how he returned the favor.

- Cartoonist
Jok Church created the science-education comic strip "You Can with Beakman and Jax" and the zany TV series "Beakman's World." Full bio

You know, what I do is write for children,
00:15
and I'm probably America's
00:18
most widely read children's author, in fact.
00:20
And I always tell people
00:22
that I don't want to show up looking like a scientist.
00:24
You can have me as a farmer, or in leathers,
00:27
and no one has ever chose farmer.
00:30
I'm here today to talk to you
00:34
about circles and epiphanies.
00:36
And you know, an epiphany
00:38
is usually something you find that you dropped someplace.
00:40
You've just got to go around the block
00:42
to see it as an epiphany.
00:44
That's a painting of a circle.
00:46
A friend of mine did that -- Richard Bollingbroke.
00:48
It's the kind of complicated circle
00:51
that I'm going to tell you about.
00:53
My circle began back in the '60s
00:55
in high school in Stow, Ohio
00:58
where I was the class queer.
01:00
I was the guy beaten up bloody
01:03
every week in the boys' room,
01:05
until one teacher saved my life.
01:07
She saved my life by letting me go to the bathroom
01:10
in the teachers' lounge.
01:13
She did it in secret.
01:15
She did it for three years.
01:17
And I had to get out of town.
01:19
I had a thumb, I had 85 dollars,
01:22
and I ended up in San Francisco, California --
01:24
met a lover --
01:28
and back in the '80s, found it necessary
01:31
to begin work on AIDS organizations.
01:33
About three or four years ago,
01:38
I got a phone call in the middle of the night
01:40
from that teacher, Mrs. Posten,
01:42
who said, "I need to see you.
01:45
I'm disappointed
01:47
that we never got to know each other as adults.
01:49
Could you please come to Ohio,
01:52
and please bring that man
01:55
that I know you have found by now.
01:57
And I should mention
02:00
that I have pancreatic cancer,
02:02
and I'd like you to please
02:05
be quick about this."
02:07
Well, the next day we were in Cleveland.
02:10
We took a look at her, we laughed, we cried,
02:12
and we knew that she needed to be in a hospice.
02:15
We found her one, we got her there,
02:19
and we took care of her
02:21
and watched over her family,
02:23
because it was necessary.
02:25
It's something we knew how to do.
02:27
And just as the woman who wanted to know me as an adult
02:29
got to know me,
02:33
she turned into a box of ashes
02:35
and was placed in my hands.
02:37
And what had happened
02:40
was the circle had closed,
02:42
it had become a circle --
02:44
and that epiphany I talked about
02:47
presented itself.
02:49
The epiphany is
02:51
that death is a part of life.
02:53
She saved my life;
02:55
I and my partner saved hers.
02:58
And you know, that part of life needs everything
03:02
that the rest of life does.
03:04
It needs truth and beauty,
03:06
and I'm so happy it's been mentioned so much here today.
03:08
It also needs --
03:11
it needs dignity,
03:14
love and pleasure,
03:16
and it's our job to hand those things out.
03:18
Thank you.
03:21
(Applause)
03:23

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About the Speaker:

Jok Church - Cartoonist
Jok Church created the science-education comic strip "You Can with Beakman and Jax" and the zany TV series "Beakman's World."

Why you should listen

In his work, Jok Church loved helping kids learn basic concepts of science and experimentation -- with a healthy dash of fun. He created his comic strip You Can with Beakman & Jax in 1991 for his local newspaper in Marin County, California -- inspired by a stint answering kids' letters for Lucasfilm. The comic strip does not answer readers' questions directly. Rather, it gives directions to do a thing, a procedure, an experiment to learn the answer. It's about learning by doing. Active. Not passive.

Six Beakman & Jax books are best-sellers. Church created the long-running TV series Beakman's World, a hit in English and Spanish, and helped create the Beakman's World on Tour exhibit for science centers and museums. A longtime techie, he also served as the webmaster for artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Church died April 29, 2016, and will be much missed.

 

More profile about the speaker
Jok Church | Speaker | TED.com