Nothing makes you stop like an unexpected obituary.
Last night, while getting ready for bed after a long day of inservice, meetings, and spending time with some college students my wife and I mentor, I scrolled down Facebook to see my freshman Bible Study leader Norman Hogue had passed away. He was forty.
Shock is all I could feel. I had not been in contact regularly with him since college, but over the years we would chat at reunions- the last of which was just a couple years ago.
As I read down the posts on his page- trying to grasp the reality of his passing, I was struck by his significance. Every post spoke of his character, his love of family and friends, his memorable personality traits. I remember Norman, as a college student, coming to my father's funeral along with about a dozen other Aggie friend.
His was- by all accounts- a life of significance.
I was awoken at three a.m. this morning, and due to processing his passing, and processing my admittedly staggering amount of responsibilities that seem to keep piling up (and only partly because I choose them) I started to think about why anyone does what they do in life.And I kept coming back to one word:
We all want to matter. To know that we left an imprint on at least one person. I believe that even the most introverted, hide-out-in-the-mountains-away-from-people deep down wants to feel of some value. That when someone reaches their end of patience and strength- at the heart of their struggle with life is a desire to know they matter.
I chose teaching because I wanted to make a difference. To matter. To have significance. And if I am being candid- I choose to do so much, to pursue innovation, to seek to become an administrator, to challenge the status quo because I want to do something of significance. I want to reach as many people as I can and make a difference in their lives.
At the end of the day, I want to know that I will leave an impact.
I do not think I am unique in this desire at all.
A class clown wants to make an impact. A star student wants to make an impact. The troublemaker wants to make an impact. The scientist, the artist, the athlete, even the wallflower wants to be remembered when they move on.
Earlier in the day, while meeting with my LEADS Innovators, two of them shared a story about one of our soon to be Ambassadors. According to Emily and Javan, this student was on the track to making an impact- just not a good one. Another teacher, earlier this year, approached the young man and simply yet eloquently questioned his choice of friends. "Wise people hang with wise people. Fools hang with fools. Who are you hanging with?" That simple question was a moment of significance for this student. I do not know who the educator is- but they are significant to me, too.
I want to be significant. Yes, because I want to know that I matter. But I also want to be significant in the way that that teacher was to our soon to be ambassador- to be significant in the lives of others in a way that changes their lives.
Norman Hogue changed my life in some ways. He obviously impacted a lot of other people, too. My hope is that I can be of significance to the lives of those around me- be they friends, family, students, or fellow educators.
That is why I strive, why I reach.
Why I press on.