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The Heart of the Matter

Written by Nik
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This past Friday, I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to speak to/with a group of 50-60 high school students about Project Chemo Crochet as well as lead a lunch crochet lesson. These students are part of the school’s leadership group and have speakers regularly. When Tracy, a fellow All Star teacher, had asked me to be one of their guests, I was sincerely honored. She informed me that I would be speaking for about 45 minutes and then hold a crochet lesson during lunch with about 30-40 students. As I lay in bed the night before doubt, anxiety, and nerves possessed my mind and body.  I thought, “My story is not interesting or powerful enough to share with these kids. I could only imagine the amazing speakers that they have heard. The powerful messages that they learned. I was just a teacher who now crochets, and not that well ;).”

The next morning I arrived at the high school and headed to Tracy’s classroom. (Talk about flashbacks…boy, did that make me miss my old room and kids! Shout out to all my HH students!!!) As we waited for the class period to begin, a woman walked into the room. She was a small middle aged woman, kind hearted, and so broken inside. I could see it immediately. Through our conversation, I learned that she was the wife of one of our blanket recipients as well as the mother of one of the students at the high school. Her pain radiated through because her husband, her children’s father, passed away only 2 months ago. She was there to listen to me, represent her daughter who couldn’t attend, and honor her husband who received our blanket. She wanted to learn how to crochet to give back. As we conversed, all preparations of a “speech” I had outlined in my mind about the how and why of PCC went out the window. When it comes down to it, there is no script. It’s the heart of the matter. (Side note…Heart of the Matter was a book that my mom and I both read and shared many conversations about.)

I began to speak, no let’s say that I just talked. I remembered hearing the words of so many previous guest speakers “If I only reach one kid, then this is all worth it.” That would be my philosophy now. I started at the beginning, gave details maybe I shouldn’t have, shared memories that maybe needn’t be shared. The room fell silent. The funny thing about silence, especially with teenagers, is that it can be confusing. Are they sleeping or captivated? It’s Friday, maybe they are thinking about their weekend plans or maybe dying to read the text that just vibrated their phone? Who knows! I just kept talking and before I knew it the 45 minutes was up.

A lot of emotional exchanges happened in between and the crochet lesson went as well as it could. The kids persevered! Truly impressed me!

On the 2 hour drive home I replayed the day. I second guessed myself for most of what I had said. I was positive those kids didn’t really care about my story as I am sure they deal with much greater things as teenagers. It was what I would call my “drive of shame.” (I know…self-esteem and confidence issues. ;))

Later that evening I remembered the stack of index cards in my purse. (Each student was given an index card to write a small note to the presenter.) Now I know how teenagers can be, I taught them for 12 years. I figured that most likely the notes were generic thank yous that they have written a hundred times before. Man…I was WRONG!

Here are just a few snippets.

“…hearing your story inspires me to do big things with my life.”

“made me realize that you never really know how much time you have with someone.”

“You taught me not to give up...go into it head on and never give up…I look up to you.”

“Your story made me appreciate my mom.”

“…Cancer is a horrible thing, but its physical character can’t destroy the spiritual and emotional joy and happiness that these blankets bring to those who are suffering.”

 “Easily one of the most inspiring speakers we’ve been blessed with getting to hear, hands down.”

“sad, emotional, powerful, and inspirational.”

“reminds me of how much I owe to my mom…she’s everything to me even though we fight”

“I’m in complete awe….made me want to find my story”

“when you started talking I assumed it was a leadership talk and about your organization. But once you started talking about your mom I completely broke down inside…”

“…moving and passionate…most awesome and caring thing I have ever seen.”

“…what you do transforms the lives of countless people who receive and donate.”

 

Please, don’t get me wrong! I’m not sharing these snippets to gloat or boast about myself. I am sharing these because I realized that you just NEVER know how you are impacting someone with your story. The fact is, I just talked. I talked about my mom, my brother, me, and US. I didn’t have a thesis statement to my speech nor did I repeat a consistent message 3 times to drive home a point. I simply talked.

I took back all of my “I wish” thoughts from my car ride home because at that moment I realized that I was real and in turn so were they. That’s what people need to hear. I feel honored to have shared the afternoon with the young men and women at Will C Wood High School. My only hope is that the impressions I made on Friday resonate within them to keep their fires burning; whether it be finding a new hobby in crocheting squares for PCC or to remember to hug and appreciate their moms.

These individuals have also made a lasting impression on me. From the courageous mother who lost her husband so recently, the girl whose mom is currently battling cancer, the ever so quiet senior girl who lost her mother 2 years ago, or the boy who refused to give up on crocheting his square that afternoon; they will stay with me. Sharing my story and attempting to teach 40 kids how to crochet isn’t just to recruit more volunteers for Project Chemo Crochet, although that is always nice. It is about inspiring people to find their story, their passion to make one’s own life and those around a little brighter.

What a day! What a group! What a thing we have going on here!

 

Always proud, honored, and humbled…my cup runneth over…

 

 

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