News flash: you have an impact on others.
If I asked you to picture a favorite teacher or coach, a kind sponsor, a past mentor, or simply someone who made an impression on you, INSPIRED you, you would not have any trouble at all doing that.
It’s easy right? Individuals like that stay in your mind and make you feel warm and fuzzy, even decades later.
The crazy part? It’s more that likely that that person has NO IDEA how much they meant to you. Or how much you learned from them. Or how much they inspired you and made you feel loved and valued.
How could they? You likely were pretty young and green when you admired them, and then the world sent you on to your next step without permitting you the proper words or manner in which to honor that mentor.
And, honestly, you probably didn’t even realize their profound effect on you until you were much older and could truly articulate that! (Not your fault, of course…)
Into the way-back machine we go!!
The year was 1993, and I was on the cusp of completing my degree and graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill as a Spanish-teacher-to-be, and fortunate to be armed with a job offer in the elementary school where I did my student teaching…
However, my innate sense of being an “initiating quick start” kicked in (what is Kolbe™?): I had this “itch” to “go do something really out of the box” and not stay in Chapel Hill, NC. Of course, Chapel Hill is an AMAZING place, and I loved it, but it was too…normal. Too expected. Too…yeah….
One day, I saw a flyer on on the bulletin board advertising an amazing opportunity with “Volunteers for Educational and Social Services” (VESS), an Austin, TX, based volunteer organization!!!
I signed up. Without hesitation.
(And without much information either…3393 is my Kolbe MO…I jump in even without needing the details!)
I bid adios to my family and friends in Raleigh and drove to St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. VESS held a week-long gathering and orientation for all the fresh-outs like me who were pumped and excited to start their posts in places of need all across Texas.
I volunteered to teach 5th grade at a little Catholic school in Robstown, TX, just 20 minutes southeast of Corpus Christi. I was so excited! I wanted to use my Spanish and also my freshly-minted teaching skills.
After that week, I trekked the 3 hours to Robstown in my blue 1993 Saturn sedan (I loved that car!). I rolled into my new “out of the box” adventure: right-by-the-railroad-tracks Robstown. I found my house-to-be for the next year, and then I drove to the school. I had 2 companion volunteers in the VESS program that were also assigned to St. Anthony’s School, one for PE and the other for Kindergarten.
When I presented my fresh-faced self to the Principal, a Mrs. Rosario Gonzalez, she had another teacher in the office with her. Long story short, this other woman was a veteran teacher returning to help with the staffing shortage (which is why they requested 3 VESS volunteers, I’m sure), but she was already a 5th grade teacher. Basically, they “volun-told” me that I would be teaching a 2-level class comprised of the 3rd AND 4th graders. There were only four 3rd graders, so let’s just sweep them on in, eh??
Okay…sure??? I was 23. What was I going to say?
The adventure was on.
And, it was an adventure!
Needless to say, I had my hands full with this class of 14 challenging but amazing children, but that’s what I was there for.
It was a nonstop wild ride from August of 1993 until June of 1994.
- I worked my ass off.
- I cried almost once a week because it was HARD.
- I almost quit in March, true story.
- I felt like a phony almost all the time.
- I wanted to sometimes strangle and then adopt every single child.
- I ate the best cafeteria food in the whole world. Chalupas!
- I took them on field trips.
- I read aloud from the book Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and had them enraptured.
- I loved how they called me simply “Miss” and also “Miss Leh-ry” and hugged me all the time.
- I loved how they surprised me every day with something new to learn about life from their perspective.
- I knew that the harder it was, the more life-lessons I was getting.
It was the hardest and BEST job I ever had.
I went back two years later to their 6th grade graduation. So proud!
Guess what? Through the magic of Facebook, I have been slowly finding them!! It is fascinating to hear their impressions and memories from their perspective.
Like a time capsule!
Last Friday, I received a friend request from the one student who, let’s say, was by far and large, the MOST DIFFICULT to manage. He made me NUTS. He took too much of my attention, time and energy. He also had his fellow students in his back pocket and wielded his power liberally! I did not look back fondly on that part of the experience.
Without hesitation, I accepted his friend request, we started chatting in Messenger.
OH MY GOODNESS!!!! News flash: he absolutely LOVED me and thought I was so amazing! He said the whole class thought so, too. Plus, he remembered my Saturn and reminded me that I took them to the movies…we spent a good portion of Friday messaging back and forth and I just couldn’t stop SMILING.
The validation almost THIRTY YEARS LATER was just as powerful. Maybe even more so!
The point is: YOU ARE POSITIVELY IMPACTING OTHERS. You don’t feel like you are. You may rarely feel that way.
But, rest assured: you 100% are, so don’t give up. Keep it up! Being who YOU are and giving YOUR gifts.