This week I’ve spent the majority of each day with middle school students. There are kids who are obnoxious and brazen, kids who are reserved and shy, kids who are hilarious and those who look like they’re suffering. My heart aches for all these kids, especially the quiet ones. You couldn’t pay me to relive a week at their age.
I always thought middle school would be the most difficult age to teach. And it very well may be. But I am not so pessimistic to think that the opportunity to leave an impact as an educator is lost by the time kids have reached a certain age, and sometimes I struggle to remember that.
Recently, someone I knew in high school was killed. I didn’t know him that well while we were younger, but since our high school was really small, everyone sort of knew everyone else, in a way. This person was kind to everyone. And he took the time to know people, I mean really know them. He remembered names, and he used them. He made you feel like you mattered within the span of a two-minute conversation. That’s a gift.
I ran into him whenever I visited Minneapolis, more so than anyone else from high school. Most recently last April, he helped me pick out some wine, and he knew his wine like he knew his classmates. He remembered things about my life, and I walked away from him feeling lighter. That’s also a gift.
This person was hurting in a way that led to his death, and he likely didn’t realize the scope of his presence and how it lifted those around him. Do any of us? How often do we stop and consider the power of our presence, the good as much as the bad? I am thankful I knew him, and I’m angry and devastated that his life was cut short. The depth of his family’s grief is unimaginable, and I hope that they can one day find peace knowing that he left a formidable impact.