A few days ago I received an email from a friend of mine, who wanted to let me know that her son—I’ll call him, “Joey”—was going to be speaking at his church. Joey had been in my sixth grade classroom five years ago. He was wondering if I would attend; this would be his first time speaking and she said it would mean a lot to him if I were there.
I arrived at 9:00 to the designated address and quietly slipped into the back row, where I could see Joey up at the front. The meeting began and progressed…a few minutes after my arriving, Joey noticed me and broke into a smile, waving.
I waved back.
When it came time for Joey to get up in front of the congregation, I sat up a little taller in my seat. I remembered the young boy in my class, who years before had a difficult time getting up in front of people, and often spoke very quietly. With a lot of practice throughout the year—as well as a mother who challenged him with every assignment I gave—I watched him slowly become much more relaxed in front of a classroom full of his peers.
However, these were not his peers. Some of those present were five or six times his age.
His voice was strong. He looked confidently out into the crowd. He smiled.
He began to talk about how, at this time of year, he was not grateful for parents, religious leaders, good friends, and a teacher who’d taught him to get up in front of crowds of people. He went on saying that he was not grateful for these things only once a year, but every day of his life.
I felt myself beginning to tear up as I watched this young man—still able to see the boy who’d walked out of my classroom all those years ago—a young man who is confident and strong.
For this, I am grateful.