What makes a person special?
Our faith in God assures us that since we were all made in His image, we must be pretty blessed. But all of us know someone who is particularly special: perhaps a family member, an old friend, a colleague – a person who is intriguing, interesting, and to whom there is some wonderful characteristic that simply sets that person apart from others in our circle.
Years ago, I met a couple who had moved to my parish when their little mission church had to close its doors. They joined our church choir, where I was a fledgling music director. They brought with them no bitterness about the closure of their much-loved church; and the grace they brought to our choir and congregation was unmistakable. I recall the man being very gracious in his offer to sing the lengthy and difficult Exultet at the Easter Vigil, while adding that if someone else may want to have the honor he would step back. When I heard him the first time, I was so moved with the way he gave himself to the words of the Exultet. He brought such a sense of joy and humility to this role, and in turn, I was so humbled to be in the celebration with him. The couple were the type of people you wanted to be near; they were special people. I look back and think about how very blessed I was to meet them.
How do our students know what makes a person special? It’s actually no surprise that, if presented with such a question, they not only describe such a person, they name those in their midst who fit the bill. I remember an assignment I gave to a Grade 3 class once about identifying someone who was a hero. One boy wrote eloquently about his big brother David in Grade 6, a person who made his little brother always feel safe. This little guy willingly shared his work at a school assembly, and all the students were genuinely appreciative of his words. The Grade 6 students all agreed that their classmate David was indeed pretty special; far from ridiculing such openness, they were generous with their own praise, recognizing that their Grade 6 classroom was a safer place because of this young man. Interestingly enough, he was far from the physical type one might associate with this role. Rather, his character told his story: he was quiet, calm, and the others trusted him completely to be the supportive friend they needed him to be.
Every classroom has students like David, no matter where you go. In our daily classroom interactions, they are an indispensable source of common sense combined with compassion. They have an unshakable sense of what is right, and in what they believe. They don’t shout their opinions from the rooftops. In contrast, sometimes their views are not expressed mostly because they are just not interested initiating conflict for the sake of being right – unless it’s to help someone else. When given these characteristics as a contextual setting, students will easily name those in their class who fulfill the description, and they willingly voice their admiration and respect. Of course, we encourage all children to be like David; but it’s equally important that each of us learns to recognize David in others.
February brings us a fun celebration of Valentine’s Day just prior to calling us to worship on Ash Wednesday. February events invite us to recognize someone special – the person we are drawn to and admire, and who somehow makes each of us better just by being who they are. Who is that person with the courage of conviction, who will stand up for us and support us when we fall – a truly special person? Who is David to you?