This is about a young man -- let's call him James.
He's the offspring of meth addicts, drug sellers and prisoners. He's the middle brother of three who had lived in the woods, been homeless, shifted between foster care homes, lived with abusive relatives, and had nothing but the clothes on his back for extended amounts of time.
He was also in the top 10 of his graduating class, an honor roll student, a college-bound dreamer, a class officer, a member of several school organizations, and one of the nicest boys you could ever meet. He balanced all of this while working two jobs.
He existed in the simplicities of life. With no bulging closet full of clothes and no desire for one, he walked the halls with a contagious smile and a warm heart.
His buddy, we'll call him Chris, was a very popular kid who seemingly had it all, at least compared to James. Stable family. Working parents. A car to drive. A bulging closet. Quite the stark contrast.
Chris was the spirit leader of our school, passionate about stirring up school pride among his peers. He envisioned a huge, loud student section at the next football game, with faces painted, banners, noise makers, the whole gamut of necessities to cheer on the Red Jackets. So, he sold some t-shirts to raise a little money.
One of the developed skills of teachers is to observe and recognize when a major event is about to take place in our classrooms. We develop a sort of sixth sense and can interrupt a squabble, ward off a physical altercation, or anticipate a child's insecurities. It's nothing we learn in teacher school. It's just an awareness of kids we tend to cultivate through the years. We become keen observers, and I knew on this particular day that I was about to observe a pivotal moment. So, I sat at my desk, ears perked, eyes focused.
Chris was visibly upset. The money he had raised was gone, stolen from his car. His hopes for a painted student section were dashed. The debt to the t-shirt man was unpaid, and Chris was in worried shambles.
James just listened. I just watched. It was a quiet conversation between two friends. In his distress, Chris did not notice James remove his wallet, but I certainly did. He pulled out the few bills he had and slid them across his friend's desk.
Chris's face was priceless. The verbal exchange that followed was remarkable. I was brought to tears as I listened to the banter back and forth. At one point Chris pleadingly looked at me for help refusing the money, but I was just a lucky observer and remained silent. James finally ended the back-and-forth by saying, "I really want you to have it. It's not much, anyway, but it's all I have." With tears in his eyes, Chris slid the money in his pocket and shook his friend's hand.
The bell rang. The two boys walked out of my room, and that was it.
I tell this story with one simple thought in mind. Find something today that inspires you. Search out some interaction that impacts you. There are unbelievable events occurring right before your eyes every day. Just watch. Just listen.
Sheryl Green is an independent contractor. Contact her at email@example.com.