I just had to share this interaction I had with Jalen last night. Lately he has just been really incredible. I mean, he has always been a great kid but something has switched in him and he has been really pleasant. Now the really weird thing about this is he just turned 13. He’s in the 8th grade. So at this point he is supposed to become a raging lunatic! But he’s not. When he messes up and doesn’t follow directions he says, “can I fix it by doing it right now?” At Christmas he had a huge smile for every gift and gave everyone a genuine hug and thank you….even for the things he didn’t really want! He has been tolerating our corny jokes that we say just to tease him. (like when the James Earl Jones commercial comes on and says “Totes Magotes”… we then talk like that to be cool like the cool kids… You know all the things that drove you crazy that your parents did to you when you were a teenager!) And yet he is unphased or just laughs it off…
So last night I commented to him how great he has been lately. I discussed some of the examples I stated above and told him how happy he made my mom we he opened her Christmas gift and sincerely thanked her for the pillows she made him. (They were pretty cool sports themed pillows… Go FSU!) Then he begins to tell me how he has had a shift in perspective this year!!!!
One of his classes had a guest speaker this year. He was a fireman that was part of helping rescue people on 9/11. He informed the class that a number of his friends and colleagues had past away on that day. He took many things away from the presentation because he is truly a lover of history. However, the thing that impacted him the most was a wall of pictures that the man showed them. He said that the pictures of those they lost were all selected because of the smiles they had on their faces and that it was important for them to smile in every picture and enjoy every moment with the ones you love because you never know when it could be your last.
He shared this story with us as though he was a 90 year old man looking back on his life. He was reflective and thoughtful. It not only impacted him educationally but it impacted his life and his perspective on his life and life in general. He walked out of the room as though we had just had a conversation like, “do you know where my sneakers are?” It was so simple and so matter of fact and yet to me, and his dad, it was such a cool moment. Not only was he learning what it meant to appreciate his life but also how to appreciate those he loves and spends time with.
How often does a child come home from school with something that impacts them so deeply?
Why don’t more have that opportunity?
As a parent this conversation touched me. As an educator I am overwhelmed. That teacher has no idea what an impact they have had on Jalen. That speaker has no idea. All they did was offer those students the opportunity to hear them and feel their story. You often have no idea if anyone actually took something away from it. Especially in Junior High!
Next step for me is to thank the teacher and the school for the opportunity. Thank them for allowing him to have the opportunity to hear this fireman so that he could create that message into a lifestyle. Then, I have to find out who this presenter was. Anyone that has lived through what he has speaks to children now for the sole purpose to make a difference. It is important for him to know he has!
And that I am thankful for all of them!