It’s not a new question. It’s one that we are asked many times during our lives. When asked, we often share stories about our moms, a favorite teacher, a religious leader, or some other adult that helped to mold us into the person we are today. But, what if I asked you can someone you meet, for the first time, just by chance, truly inspire you? To that, I say…yes.
This week I worked in Memphis, TN doing a seminar with 60+ kindergarten and first grade teachers. As the teachers were coming into the room, I chatted with them, mostly small talk just to get a feel for the crowd. There was a group of 5 teachers that came in together. They we chatting and laughing with each other and we generally just very happy. I started talking to them, when I noticed one of the girls had a very short hair cut! I loved it! You see, I want to cut my hair reeealllly short, but I just don’t have the nerve. Her name is Kate.
I told Kate just how cute her hair was. She looked around to the teachers in her group and they all kinda chuckled. She told me that people ask her all the time who cut her hair. Her response… God! You see, last year, during her first year of teaching, her very first year, she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer after a large lump popped up on her neck while she was teaching. She was given 2 months to live. She is younger than my own two children, never married, no kids. My heart just broke.
She told me she went to school all year during her treatments, often running to the bathroom when she wasn’t feeling well. The whole time she was telling me her story, she had such a glow about her. She told me how those kids will always hold a special place in her heart. She told me how much she loved teaching and how it kept her going. So is there good news? Does this story have a happy ending? How can such a sad story inspire me? The good news…she, despite the odds, is in remission. I really wanted to hug her. One can’t help but know that her positive attitude, her bubbly personality, the many prayers and her shear determination had to play a part in her outcome.
During the seminar, she took pictures of nearly every thing I showed. She wrote all kinds of notes, she leaned and talked to her teammates as she made connections to the things we were learning. She made me want to present like it was the last time I would have the opportunity to do so. She made me want to be a better teacher, a better person, a little less whiny, and a lot more thankful. She inspired me!
During our two days, I started watching other teachers, looking for ways to be inspired by the little things I saw. The two teachers who, when we ran short on handout books, willingly gave theirs up and shared with their friends. The teacher who went by her school and picked up paper plates when we realized we wouldn’t have enough the next day. The teacher who brought in a spinner to show me a new way to make one. Another teacher who brought in two new games inspired by what she had learned the first day. The take charge principal that made sure we knew all the restaurants in the area. The principals and central office personnel who came with groups of teachers and listened to the teachers share their excitement about what they were learning. To the countless teachers who went out of their way to tell me thank you, or that they were so glad they came, or that they had learned so much.
So this week I challenge you. Watch and listen to the people around you. Let them inspire you to teach your heart out, to love your family, to take care of your friends, and to help those that sometimes we find difficult to help. Think of Kate. Her story will inspire you to be thankful, to tell others you love them, to be kind….Thank you, Kate…you inspired me.
(Just so you know..Kate gave me permission to share her story.)