Every semester I meet incredible people. Some of the students are born and raised in the US while others come from all over the world: Nigeria, Ukraine, Croatia, Israel, Jamaica, Haiti, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Columbia, Venezuela and so on. Many of these students and their families have fled dictatorships, poverty, wars and persecution, and others come to the US seeking better opportunities. Most of my students work full time or part time. Some have families to support, children to raise and dreams to accomplish. They all have stories to tell, incredible stories. And I of course am humbled by their openness to share these stories with me. They display tremendous courage in the face of huge obstacles. Many of them will be the first in their family to ever achieve a college degree; they carry a great weight on their shoulder and failure is not an option. They must succeed; they must! Every term, I find a couple of students with an incredible fire in their eyes, in their heart and a disposition that outshines many of the others. They display unique and highly exceptional qualities that diminish and obscure their limitations.
Without being cruel or offensive, I try to provide all my students with honest and straightforward information and advice. I always say I prefer the truth before a pretty lie, and so I offer truths even though the receiver may be caught off guard hoping only for good news. However, you may find a beautiful red and yellow mango in the supermarket, take it home expecting it to be sweet and juicy, but then find that it is very bitter. In the end, you cannot eat it and probably decide to throw it away. I do not like waste, and so instead of providing my students with falsehood, I decide to provide them with a truth, no matter how painful it may be. The student then decides what he or she will do with that truth. Last term was no exception. When one particular student who will remain nameless for obvious reason consistently asked for my advice or opinion, I gave it to him. My words, though presented kindly, were painful to him. I know this, for I saw it on his face. However, behind the sadness and perhaps even despair, my truth could not extinguish his fire, his commitment. He reminded me every time that he would succeed; he would do whatever he had to do to succeed. And so, while every one else slept and relaxed, he studied, took practice tests, went to lab, came to my office and still had time to go to work and take other classes. This student not only passed the writing state exam in my class, he also passed the grammar state exam with a high score. When I received the final results, I cried, yelled out his name as I sat alone in my office. He wasn't there for me to hug him or congratulate him. He wasn't there to share in the joy I felt. All I could say was, "He made it! He made it!" I was so happy, so proud of him and what he had accomplished. Maybe my truth made him work harder. Maybe my truth made him stronger. Or maybe I was wrong all along in judging him. Maybe he had something deep inside that made him do "a Michael Jordan" or "a Lance Armstrong." Whatever it was, I know it was not me. It was he who chose the "road less traveled by and that has made all the difference." -Robert Frost
If you do not know what "a Michael Jordan" is then I recommend you read his biography or one of his books. In general, when faced with adversity, we have choices to make. Usually there are only two choices: stay and fight or run away. Like Jordan, my student chose to fight.
If you are not my student and you are unfamiliar with my web page, check it out. It is filled with countless resources, links and yes many many quotes. You can read about great men and women like Jordan, Armstrong, Potts, Bocelli, O'Keeffe, King and many more.
CHALLENGE TO MY BLOGGER FRIENDS: Do you know anyone who chose to do "a Michael Jordan" and would not give up on his or her dream even when everybody else thought it was hopeless? Choose someone other than yourself. :) Tell the story and if you like link back to this story. Leave a comment and I will write a post and link back to all of you. Enjoy!