One of the aspects that comes from walking into a class of total strangers for the first time is expectations. I expect that because most of them are young, that they have relatively normal lives absent any grave or impactful issues. I could not be more wrong.
The level of candor reflected in most papers was not only unexpected but demonstrated a ready interest in ethics as well as an awareness of the affect their actions (or inactions) might have on others.
In her pre-class assignment, one young woman observed, “Being human, I have strayed from the path of morality, but in doing so, I ultimately gained a much deeper understanding of myself and the world around me.
“When I became a mother to my now six-year-old son, my life changed completely and my focus and priorities centered on family values and core principles that would enrich his life. I value respect, honor, trust, truth, companionship, joy and happiness in everything I do, and I believe we are given chances every day to instill these principles in ourselves and those around us.”
Her story of inspiration talks about how a seemingly simple event can reveal a larger meaning in our lives.
“There have been a few people who have inspired me and who remain in my heart. One gentleman stands out who touched the hearts of my family as well as hundreds of people without ever meeting us.
“On the tip of a downhill curve; on a busy road, stood an old, small house with hardly any windows. It was surrounded by a beautiful garden with tall ornamental grasses and sprouts of colorful wildflowers lining the dirt driveway, and the elderly gentleman who lived there would sit in his red lawn chair waving at every single passerby.
“Every morning, my son and I drove by this house and he always reminded me to wave. An act so simple seemed to brighten our day and we always looked forward to this routine gesture. For many months I kept thinking how I should stop and meet this man. I had seen people pulled over, chatting with him in an adjacent red, lawn chair. It seemed as if he welcomed complete strangers just to enjoy a few smiles with or share a story or two and I was so intrigued and curious to hear his story.
“One day in the fall, I came home from a long day of work and my mother told me that someone had been struck by a car, pinned between the bumper and an ice cooler and killed. This is huge news for a small country town like mine. The following day, to my horror, I was told that the victim of this careless accident was the waving man that we had seen daily for so many years. I was completely heartbroken and my son was shocked and confused. This man had impacted our family with nothing but a friendly wave and a warm smile, and he was abruptly and tragically taken from this world.
“Following his death, we brought flowers to his home and placed them next to the plethora of other items as a memorial to him and all he did for so many lives.
“On the front door, I read what was posted about his mantra, his way of life, and I continue on this mission for myself, my family and every person I encounter.
“ ‘There is no greater love than to lay down your life for someone else: an afternoon, a day, a week, two afternoons a month, or even just a wave and a smile to someone on their way to work or home. Remember to treasure your time with others, make time for others, and value your time with friends, family, and even strangers – life can be taken in an instant. Never underestimate the power of a warm smile and a friendly hello.’