Glen was a cutie pie.
As a lefty on the baseball pitcher's mound, he was an 11th grader already being recruited by several Division I colleges for his crazy accurate arm. He was a member of the youth group I worked with at our church, so I knew Glen to be a genuinely nice young man from a solid Southern family.
But I never really knew just how special Glen was until he was gone.
After a late-night phone call from his best friend who needed a ride home, Glen rolled out of bed to help his pal. But on his way home, he fell asleep at the wheel, catapulting him and his truck off the road and into a bridge. He was killed instantly.
The small, rural high school where I worked was devastated. The handsome All-American baseball player was gone, and our kids had no clue how to cope with the loss of their beloved, very popular friend.
In times of struggle and pain, a community, a nation or a school can rise and represent its character -- its true colors -- or it can flounder and crumble.
Our school, our community, our kids found beautiful ways to mourn and overcome.
The students asked for a massive memorial to be held on the baseball field, and of course, a beautiful ceremony was organized. A microphone was placed on home plate that faced a pitcher's mound filled with pictures of Glen and flowers of our school colors. One by one, students and teachers whispered their memories of Glen.
A long momentary lag in mourners was finally broken by a young girl humbly walking to the microphone. I did not recognize her, and at a small school such as this one was, this unfamiliarity meant one thing: She was not in the limelight of an athletic team, wasn't a member of the drama program, and didn't make a mark on the school as a club president. She was what her peers probably called a nerd, a nobody, a misfit. She probably didn't wear the right clothes or come from the right neighborhood, but she found a boldness somewhere to speak of her lost friend.
Every day she would walk alone from first to second period English class, the class she shared with Glen.
She was first into the classroom because she had no friends to linger with in the hallways. Glen was always the second one in the room. He would plop himself on her desk and ask, "Hey! How's your day?" And more importantly, he would listen to her response.
She revealed that sad day that sometimes Glen was the only person to speak to her all day.
At some point throughout the school year, every year, that story seems appropriate to share with my students because Glen was a person who didn't see labels or judge based on looks or exclude based upon social status. He was a person who made an impact.
That's the kind of person I want to be.
That's the kind of
young people I want to help mold in this judgmental, harsh world.
I think it is important to introduce Glen to my students because they need to hear how easy it can be to have a small part in someone else's happiness or feeling of acceptance.
This young girl was moved by Glen's openness and acceptance of her, and the impact only cost him a few moments of his time.
We might not be a future Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr., and many of my students might never be a teenage Malala fighting for girls in Pakistan.
But we all can be a Glen because a smile is free and a moment of our time may be priceless to someone who walks in isolation.
Sheryl Green is an independent contractor. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org