Why do we knock each other down? Why do we judge and discourage one another when instead we could cheer and encourage? Is this a culture thing or a human nature thing?  I love building up my friends, cheering them on, supporting them, listening to them. My heart cries out for people who are struggling with life, financially, emotionally… I just want to help people, people I know, people I don’t…

Want to know who I admire? There is a man that I met when I was in high school. He was my history teacher during my sophomore year. Mr. Bley. History was not my subject. Neither was math or science… But my life was changing that year. My parents were getting a divorce and things were weird at home. On top of all that, I was 15, being 15 is an awkward enough time. I was really hurting, really struggling. Mr. Bley saw the hurt, the sadness, the struggle and he made himself available. He didn’t just say, “hey kid, I’m here if you need me.” He met me in my sad place and said, “Ever feel like a fire hydrant and every dog in the neighborhood is stopping by to visit you?” He sat with me in the stacks of the library and let me talk, let me cry, let me be real. He didn’t judge me, didn’t discourage me. He went above and beyond the classroom. Mr. Bley didn’t try to tutor me to raise my gpa.Mr. Bley helped me to learn about life. He retired after that year. I was able to pull myself out of the dark hole I was in and went on to make many rebellious mistakes throughout the rest of high school and the first year of college. But I never forgot Mr. Bley and what he did for me.

In 2011 I had my first story published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Just for Teenagers. It was about Mr. Bley. I found him on facebook and we reconnected 12 years after being in his class. In November 2016, my husband, boys and I flew to Denver, CO to spend Thanksgiving with my family. One of the coolest parts of the week long trip was getting to have lunch with Mr. Bley who lives not too far from my sister. It was an honor and a privilege to be in the company of a man who dedicated his entire career to paying forward the kindness a teacher showed to him when he was a kid. I am blessed to be a recipient of this kindness. I loved that my husband and my kids got to meet a man who played such an important role in my past.

It has been 18 years since I was in Mr. Bley’s classroom and he is still teaching me, still inspiring me, still encouraging me. I want more of that in my life. Does that mean that I want more cheerleaders in my life? No. I can’t change people. I can’t walk around with a sign on my forehead saying “stop knocking others down and judging them. Peace, love, and happiness ya’ll!” Well, I could… But wouldn’t it be much more effective if instead I practiced holding my tongue and not letting every thought run out of me like hot lava. If my kindness and gratitude spilled over more at home, maybe just maybe I would be sending 3 kind, grateful,  compassionate boys out into the world who then might pay it forward. It all starts at home, and while I will never be perfect, while I will always fall short, I will not give up on myself, or on my family. Life is hard. Parenting is hard. Marriage is hard. But things that are worth it are worth working hard for. I am so thankful that there are hard working, compassionate, kind, and generous people in this world to pay it forward. Do you have someone in your life who has encouraged you? Do you want to be that person for someone? Yes? Then do it. Be it. Live it.