While I was still in high school, Mr. Mickelsen, my math teacher, pulled me aside and said, ďNot even the best teacher can teach a student who doesnít want to learn, and not even the worst teacher can stop one who does.Ē At the time, I knew the statement was directed toward me, and I acted like it didnít mean anything, but as I grew and learned more, I realized how powerful it was. I grew to understand my own responsibility, not only in my education, but in life. No one can help someone who doesnít want to be helped, and no one can stop someone who is determined to learn and grow.
Years later, I ran into Mr. Mickelsen and told him how much those words have meant to me. Iíve not only held onto them myself, but Iíve shared them in every class Iíve taught, and now Iím sharing them here knowing that someone will read them and see the truth that is within them. They have made a significant difference in my life and the lives of countless others. Perhaps we will never know how many lives they have touched in positive ways.
Mr. Mickelsen said he didnít even remember having that conversation with me, and he was glad that he made a difference. For him, it was a simple thing said in his day-to-day life.
Sometimes, itís the simple things that carry the greatest meaning.
Recently, a good friend said that some days she wonders if she touches a single soul in a positive way. I was stunned because every day she touches the lives of the people around her with her example and the way she faces the challenges of life. The simple things she does that show she cares, that sometimes itís better to be kind than to prove youíre right, that example always teaches more than words, and countless other simple things she does in her day-to-day life.
A simple act of courtesy, like holding a door open or pausing a moment to smile and greet someone on the street can often be just what that person needs to get through a tough day. It seems that we seldom see the results of these simple acts of kindness, but they often spread as the person whose life we touch reaches out to someone else.
I used to ride the bus a lot in Seattle, and if someone got on who was older or carrying packages or a child got on, I would offer my seat to them. It was a simple act of courtesy; I did it without thinking. It was simply the way I was raised. I would usually get a thank you and a smile, but sometimes not even that. It didnít matter Ė it wasnít a big sacrifice on my part.
One day, after giving my seat to a lady who was wrestling with a young child, the bus stopped to pick up an elderly gentleman. A young man jumped up, offered his seat, and then whispered to me, ďIíve always wanted to do that, but Iíve never had the courage until I saw you do it.Ē
Iím not sure why he felt like it takes courage to be courteous, but Iím glad that my simple act made a difference.