This I Believe

Brian - Anacortes, Washington
Entered on November 17, 2006

Most days, I ride my bicycle several miles on a path that skirts Fidalgo Bay to a local Park-and-Ride. There, I hop on a bus that drives me the remaining twelve miles to Mount Vernon High School, where I teach English. I love my commute, especially on clear afternoons. The water glitters in the sunshine, and great blue herons hunt in the mud-flats as motionlessly as prehistoric statues. It was on one such afternoon that seven playful sea otter pups reminded me what I believe in most strongly.

I first caught sight of the pups swimming in a pack near the shore, only their heads visible. I stopped my bike and began to watch them. Soon, four or five other passers-by paused to look. The little otters stopped swimming and began bobbing in the water like seven furry little corks. They were now watching us. Then, as if on cue, they began to frolic in the water, diving and splashing and seemingly racing one another. Clearly, we had become an audience for a rather deliberate performance.

Pedaling on, I was struck with a simple yet powerful thought: most of us are very much like these little sea-otter pups. Whenever someone stops and watches us, notices our individual talents and beauty, we come alive, we perform. I thought of one of my personal heroes, a student who graduated from my high school last year. I’ll call her Maria. Maria was raised by a single-mom. Neither of her parents had graduated from high school, let alone college, and if statistics were human, neither would she. When she was in middle-school, however, she was selected for a program that offered her mentor tutors and pushed her into academically rigorous classes. This program made sure someone always watched Maria, and in the end, everyone at school watched her dive and splash and race her peers to the graduation stage. She is now in her first year at a prestigious private university on a full-ride scholarship. I feel blessed to have seen her performance.

Still pedaling, and almost home, another serendipitous scene awaited me—my two toddler sons were riding a bicycle and a tricycle toward me on the sidewalk. Behind them was their mom, the most intelligent and creative woman I’ve ever met, clapping and shouting encouragements. In their faces shown an unmistakable belief—“I can do anything! I am unstoppable!”

We all are. We just need someone to stop and notice us, believe in us, enjoy us for who we are. This is what I believe.