Today I went about my life as I normally do. I was checking off the boxes on my long to-do list. I was doing such when my calendar reminded me that I had a call with an old student. To be honest, I was a bit nervous. I had no idea why this student reached out the night before and had no idea what his intentions were in reaching out. My “business as usual life,” focused on self, the present and the future, had encountered a disruption.
All that aside, I was excited as well. A few days prior I randomly came across an old video of me teaching. In fact, this was the video that would determine my grade in my seminar class in my master’s program. In that video I saw my vibrant and excited student, seated at the front of my class showing enthusiasm for the day’s lesson. While I smiled, I also remembered the call from his mother reaching out for help some six or seven years later as she thought her child was “going down the wrong path.” Seeing that 10-year-old hand coupled with the reminder of that mother’s cry for help, saddened me.
Lesson: Be open to the possibilities of a connection. You never know when you can be of aide to another or when another can be of aide to you.
Fastforward, before I could execute the task of calling my old student, I received a text message that he would call me after work. After work? That was good news to me as he was at least employed. Therefore, his path must have, at the very least, made a turn for the better. I drove to my last stop when my phone began to ring. I answered in a jovial voice, “Hello Mr. ______.” I knew he would find that greeting funny because after almost a decade, I remembered his last name. “Ms. Moore,” he exclaimed. We were genuinely happy to greet each other. Though a decade had passed, we connected as if we’d never lost touch. As he began to share, “I haven’t made the best decisions over the past few years.” I responded, “I know. At this point, I might as well be your aunt. I am fully aware of some of your shenanigans and even the tattoo.” Once I mentioned the tattoo, you could hear the disbelief in his voice.
Lesson: There are times when you will make an impression on one’s life, an impression so deep that one day they will circle back around based on that impression. When such occurs, the spirit of love requires availability along with a welcome hello. (Caveat, ensure that such a person is safe and can communicate in a healthy and progressive manner.)
After the ice was broken, he began to share more about his life and how he found the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. At 19 and so strong in his beliefs, he blew me away. Not only was he passionate about his religious choice, he was also passionate about becoming an investment banker. Investment BANKER!!! At that moment, my smile burned through the phone. A few short years ago, I heard the cries of a mother for her only son. That day, I heard that only son share about the right path he had chosen because of his time looking and walking down the wrong path. Somewhere along the way, he noticed the consequences ahead and knew that his life was worth more than what those possibilities could provide.
Lesson: We all go down improper paths from time to time. They are improper because they lead us away from all that we are and all that we can be. Though this is the case, only some of us make the choice to let the idea of that path go, at the risk of starting all over on the path that was always best for us.
After deep reflection on the irony of the call after viewing the video of my zealous student, I couldn’t help but wonder. What about the others? How were they? Had they found the path best for them? After a cursory Facebook search, the answer was, “yes, no and maybe.” I sat in silence and thought what was the meaning behind this re-established connection? How was I supposed to “teach” in this season? How was I supposed to assess the homework of this student’s life? How was I to be there? In the end, these were all questions that I did not have the answer to; however, it was clear that one day it would all make sense. If you look at the people, and more specifically the children in your life, and sit and reflect on your experiences with them, you will learn that they could teach you way more than you could ever teach them.
Lesson: Pay attention to the things and occurrences that come out of nowhere and disrupt your “business as usual” life. Such disruption is not coincidental. It is a teacher. It is a reflection. It may even be protection. Whatever it is, pay attention to life after the disruption as it occurred for a reason.
After writing this piece, I reached out to a few more students in his cohort that year. Maybe I could be their disruption— maybe not.
Lessons in Being me and Becoming me— all at the same time