Thank you for being here. Thank you for showing up. If your education now is anything like mine was back in the day, then it’s tough to go to school and do the work sometimes. The toughest thing in the world, even. And truthfully, ‘tough’ only begins to describe it.
Some days –when I was in your shoes– getting up in the morning to face the day felt like the chore from Hades, making me Sisyphus. Even now I can still remember what it felt like when my uniform seemed too worn out for another day of periods one through six, or what it felt like when my hair seemed too off for me to show up alongside my classmates with it. Similarly, I can still recall what it felt like when my stomach was grumbling too loudly for me to hear a teacher instructing me about the day’s lesson, or what it felt like when nothing major was really wrong, but when I just wanted to put on my earphones and listen to some music instead of roll call.
Most of all, I remember how unfair it felt to have to show up anyway, despite these things. And yet every morning, there my mom stood, ready to take me to school before the bell for homeroom rang.
In the same way, as the day went on, there Mrs. Weiss stood, ready to offer her guidance through fractions, divisions, exponents, and more. I didn’t quite get it at the time, but both my mom and Mrs. Weiss had plenty of other things to worry about then too. They may not have been concerned with haircuts or uniforms, but their problems were just as vivid and pulsing as mine, and their lives just as complicated. And somehow, despite these things, they still got up each morning as well. Why?
For a long time I struggled to fathom just why. I knew it wasn’t just because they wanted to teach me something; I knew that something compelled them to. Somehow though, I couldn’t quite put it into words at the time. Today, I think I’ve got a better grasp of just why, because I believe I now share their vision:
The reason my mom, Mrs. Weiss, and the other brave women and individuals within the community like them got up for school in the morning was not only because they believed in me, but because they believed in the students alongside me as well! That is, they believed in me and my peers, as well as in their talents and abilities to create change in our lives no matter how difficult it was to get something across to us sometimes.
In doing so, not only did my mom and Mrs. Weiss show leadership, honor, and loyalty to the community which brought us all together, but they did so throughout what was one of the most difficult times in our lives across from one another, at a time in which some of us were going through changes and estrangement from the world around us like never before.
Back then, for doing these things, my mom and Mrs. Weis were, well, just my mom and Mrs. Weiss. Today, however, these are the acts that make them my heroes.
Because the truth is: they knew exactly how hard it was to get up in the morning. They knew it on different terms, and through feelings of different shapes and sizes, but at the core, just like me and my peers –and you and your peers today– at their innermost selves, both my mom and Mrs. Weiss underwent the same difficult trek through existence in a world much bigger than them.
And when I wanted just to get lost in that world, both my mom and Mrs. Weiss stood up and offered their guidance. For a long time, I took this for granted, but ultimately, their wisdom and courage didn’t just help me. These things saved my life. While I’d like to tell you just how, it’s another story for another day.
For now, I’d like for you to think about individuals similar to my mom or Mrs. Weiss in your own life. First, think for a few minutes about someone who inspires you. It can be your mom or Mrs. Weiss(!), but it doesn’t have to be either. You can also think about another relative like your brother, your sister, or your Grandma, or you can think about a friend, a stranger, or even a cartoon figure like Spiderman or Wonder Woman.
When you’ve got the right person in mind, see if you can answer one or a few of the following questions: What is it about the individual or figure in mind that inspires you? How do you relate to his or her role in your life? How could other people relate to them? And what do you think you can do to honor that individual or show appreciation for them in your own life?
If you answer these, but you want to say more, try to answer the following questions: What is one particular moment that you remember with the figure that inspires you? What did they do that made you realize they were extraordinary? Finally, how can you reflect their extraordinary ways?
When you’re done, just think about how other people might have someone similar in their lives. In fact, look around you! The room will be filled with such people. The halls will be filled with them.
And even your neighborhood will be filled with them, and this is how we find the different pieces of a community. Why?
Because first you consider it, and then you live it. Believe me, I’ve lived it. And I still do.
When you’re done with this exercise, consider how the same way others inspire you is the same way you inspire others. It might not be all that clear to you yet, but rest assured: it’s real, vivid, and pulsing right alongside each step that you take.