“The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration, but its donation.” – Corrie Ten Boom
I write this post with an extremely heavy heart. This past week was probably my most difficult as an educator. Last Saturday one of my former students was killed in a car accident. He was only 13 years old and had so much life left to live. I am not writing this post to garner sympathy or to exploit his death. I write this because I am committed to reflecting on my life as an educator and to share these experiences through writing this blog. I also write this because even though Dylan’s life was too short, he left a legacy that deserves to be memorialized.
Upon first hearing the news of the accident I was of course shocked and saddened. It is always difficult losing someone you love at such a young age. I received a call this past week that his mother wanted me to speak at his funeral. I was both honored and overwhelmed by the request. It became very difficult to find the words that would do his brief life justice. There are no words that can offer comfort when someone so young dies too soon. But I began to reflect on what I share with students – the secret to being an educator. That secret is that even though we set out to teach and influence young people, they teach and influence us more than they will ever know. So I began to reflect on how Dylan influenced me and what he taught me.
The first thing that everyone recalls with Dylan was his smile, a world-class smile, the kind of smile that brightens a room and a heart. A year ago I left the school that Dylan attends for another school, but I got a chance to visit during the past school year. During that visit, I received hundreds of hugs and high-fives. Upon driving away that day, one smile stayed with me – Dylan’s. I reflected a lot this week about why I remember Dylan’s smile above all others and I believe that I was supposed to see that smile one more time. I will keep his smile tucked into my heart for all my life and share it with everyone I encounter.
One of the things that Dylan taught me was the value in helping others. He was such a good person. He was always ready to help out his teachers, classmates and especially the younger students. Dylan did so not because he was asked to, but because he saw others who needed his assistance. He also taught me the importance of being humble. Dylan was by far one of the best athletes in the school but he never acted like he was. He was always the first to say “good game” to the other teams and complimented and encouraged the other students. At his funeral today, his basketball coaches called him a “coach’s dream”.
So I ask each of you who reads this to live like Dylan. Share your smile with everyone. Help each other out. Remember that it’s about all of us and our abilities and not what one individual can do. And above all, love each other. Life is sometimes too short and we never know when our time might be up. Live each day like it’s your last and maybe you can make an impact just like Dylan did. How many of us can say that we have changed the world? Dylan did so by living his life the right way, full of joy, energy and love. I am going to honor his memory by ensuring that I live each day just like he did. Let’s change the world.