As I stood before the class of high school students in a small rural community, a 10th grader sat in the front seat to my left and was participating in my discussion with the class. When he spoke I noticed he had a heavy accent. Towards the end of the class, I learned he was an exchange student.
He stayed after class to talk. It was just the two of us in the classroom and we talked for about 20 minutes. He had a study hall and was not anxious to get going. He shared with me how his parents had recently divorced and how difficult it was for him and his brother. He felt free to expose his pain to me, a stranger. In exposing my pain in front of the class of growing up with dysfunction, it freed him to be able to tell me about the constant fighting between his parents.
As a young girl growing up with shouting and fighting between my parents most of the time, I had a very low image of myself and so many insecurities that come with living in a hostile environment. Years of seeking spiritual help and working on myself has brought me to this place of great empathy and compassion for a generation and a society that is out of control.
I see it all of the time, students listening to my stories, hearing my heart, relating to what they are hearing with eyes that are hungry and wanting to step out and step up. I realize over and over again through the thousands of children I have talked to, that it was worth it all. To have something solid in my hands and a heart full of understanding, is the greatest gift I can give this generation and I am so grateful for these classroom settings.
It is this that keeps me engaged. It is this that gives me purpose. It is this that is my calling. I will be true to this cause. If only one person relates. If only one person hears me. If only one life has new hope, it is worth my time and my energy.
As I think about my interactions with this young man, I realize that it is not just these students from a small rural community that I am speaking to, but my message of learning how to build strong, meaningful relationships, has just expanded to another country, another part of my world, another culture. I stand amazed at the bigger picture and the destiny that always steps up to greet me.