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My youngest daughter graduated from high school last week. It was a glorious day full of love and very proud moments. Her grandmother flew in from Indiana, parents and siblings present. The keynote speaker at her graduation was Señor Garvey, the Spanish teacher at her high school. At first, I was kind of unimpressed thinking that the school has not gone out of their way to secure a more famous commencement speaker – that is, until I heard the cheers and then saw students standing when he rose to take the podium, including my own son who has one more year of high school remaining.
His speech was careful and thoughtful, extremely motivating, and intensely moving. Sniffs could be heard in every corner of that event center. He spoke of his mother’s recent passing, of the support he received from colleagues and students, of embracing and conquering challenges throughout life. And when he was through, every student stood, those graduating and those attending. Parents and colleagues stood, as well. His message was well-received and it was clear that he was loved and respected by so many.
And so I asked…
Later that evening, I asked my son about him and he was eager to share.
“He is the greatest human being I have ever known, Mom.” I looked at him, square in the eyes and said, “What do you mean?” — he just repeated his statement – looking me back, square in the eyes, “He is the greatest human being I have ever known…”
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I paused and asked what exactly did that mean. “Well, what makes someone a great human being?” he asked.
I replied with,
Is compassionate and kind? “Yes.”
Takes care of his family? “Yes.”
Believes in all the good things of life, the greater good? “Yes.”
Loves and cares for his friends and the people with whom he works? “Yes.”
Cares about his job and does it well? “Yes.”
Sincerely interested in his students and their well-being? “Yes.”
Respects other people? Offers them chances and choices?
“Yes, Mom, yes — he is all of these things. He is the greatest human being I have ever known. Literally.”
I looked out the window and thought for a moment. I thought about the impact that someone must have had on my 17-year old son that would make him say and believe such a thing…
I want to be a “great human being” – I want to have that kind of impact on my family and friends, neighbors and colleagues. I guess we just need to keep on trying, keep on being great. I believe the mantle of greatness falls on those who least expect it, on those not in search of it.
Señor Garvey did not cure cancer. He did not build a new tech company. He doesn’t employ thousands or even just a few people. He does not save lives every day, or does he?
We may never know or fully comprehend the impact we have on those whose lives we touch. Be ready for that influence, for that opportunity.
What happens if you aren’t?
Who misses out?
Thank you, Señor Garvey…
Thank you for being the greatest human being my son has ever known.
“Love what you do, and you’ll never work a day in your life…”