Soon my youngest child will turn the magical age of sixteen. I have watched her metamorphosis from little girl to young woman. She is becoming beautiful in a very unconscious way--with her shining long hair and sweet looks, she's not one to emphasize her outward beauty by adorning it with cosmetics and so-forth, it makes her natural spirit and grace all the more noticeable (a mother can say such things!). Her interests have been more like that of a tomboy throughout the years. Her goal in life is to be a smoke jumper, not the usual goal for a young woman! If you don't know what that is, go do your homework. . . I love her spunk and tenacious spirit. I also like her heart. A couple of weeks ago, when I asked about a party, since sixteen is a big marker and she also hasn't had a real party since grade school, she gave me this response, "Could you give the money to the Father's House' new gym instead?" (a Christian gym that soon will be opening to reach people in a low income area) She went on to say that she would rather I help them because the sponsoring church is raising funds through people like us, although she was wondering if I could pay her way to the fair. Money has been fairly tight over the years, so I was impressed that she was unselfish and wanted to do what's more important.
Time and time again my daughter's response to people and situations is to help in some way. It says a lot about her heart. I know this is true because it is spontaneous in action. Scripture tells us that even a child is known by his doings. As a teacher, I have witnessed this same phenomenon play out, sometimes in sad ways. There are children that seem predestined to a life of crime, they have few role models or even the desire to do the right thing. Some children I have taught are now in gangs or residents in the prison system. I hoped and believed in more for them, always teaching them with a caring heart. Some do change the trajectory of their lives, embracing and following a better path than could have been their lot.
My goal in the classroom was two-fold. Instruction and academia was the principal purpose, but right along side of it was my secondary goal of opening the world of ideas, personal value and its contribution to life, and the need for courtesy and kindness. Many of my students lived in closed worlds, few books in the home, few cultural experiences. I wanted to awaken them, to help them to want more out of life. To accomplish this goal I found myself incorporating three dynamics with my students, by sharing much about the world with its interesting little-known facts, as I would seek to instill a sense of caring for others through planned acts of kindness we would do as a group, and to attach meaning by helping my students know their own value and worth as an individual as I helped them appreciate each other and recognize their own strengths. In many ways I feel the secondary goal is the more important of the two goals. Like most teachers, I often wonder which of my instructional concepts and personal comments have stayed with my former students. I haven't had the pleasure of a student returning to tell me so, although some have mentioned things we did as a class. Has my teaching made a difference? Who knows? I hope so.
Ideas can be powerful. Messages can have tremendous meaning. Character development can change the future. Even a child can change their direction. A young person can be known for their contribution to the world around them. We know this is true. We read it in the paper, some amazing accomplishments in the societal realm. It has a lot to do with an inner desire to make a difference, to help another who is less fortunate, to care.
Happy Sixteenth Birthday daughter of mine! I love you and am proud of you.