I Believe just one person can make a life changing difference in another person’s life:
The high school I attended was a large inner city, desegregated high school in Denver, Colorado. Our school only included Sophomore’s, Junior’s and Senior’s and Freshman stayed at the middle school. There were over 2,400 total students and 800 students in my graduating class. The school was so large, I didn’t know the person seated on either side of me at my high school graduation ceremony!
During the tumultuous, Holy Grail searching, life-forming years of high school, one person was able to instill in me the skills of persistence, dedication and confidence. John Miles was this person. Mr. Miles was a history professor, and history was one of my favorite subjects. I had the pleasure of his inspirational teaching style in an Advanced Placement American History class my senior year. History came alive when I was in his class and reading his assigned literature.
However, it was not in the classroom where Mr. Miles had the most impact in my life, but in the field of athletics as my high school tennis team coach. In a desegregated school of 2,400 people there were many accomplished athletes. Basketball was my first love, but with more than 75 boys going out for the high school team, my lack of speed and a vertical leap of no more than 25 inches meant my prospects were slim.
Tennis was my opportunity to be a part of a team and gain a sense of belonging in a large school. Again the competition was daunting, with many boys having had years of private coaching. I was cut during tryouts my sophomore year and didn’t make the team. In high school this was a devastating, catastrophic event. Mr. Miles recognized my disappointment but counseled me to continue to play and practice. He stated if I demonstrated continued dedication and persistence he would want me try out for the team again as a Junior.
The fall of my junior year I tried out again and the competition was still stacked against me as several strong players had moved into the school district. The day came for the final cuts and the announcement of who would be named to the team. As Mr. Miles read the name of the boys who made the team the tension was unbearable. How would I face my friends and family if I failed again? When he read my name as a member of the team my whole world seemed at peace.
The life-changing lesson came later as the team was disbursing after the announcement. Mr. Miles approached me privately and asked me to have a seat.
“Scott”, he said. Your tennis skills are coming along fine but there were better tennis players than you who did not make the team. The reason I selected you for the team is because you attended every practice and demonstrated more dedication than others who were gifted with better athletic ability. Your ability to be persistent and dedicated to your goal are the reasons I have selected you for the team.”
Mr. Miles short visit that day left me with an indelible, lifetime imprint that persistence and dedication can assist you in overcoming the struggles and challenges that life presents.
Mr. Miles has passed away and I never communicated to him the impact he had on my life, which I regret. So if a person has made a positive, life changing impact on your life, communicate with them and thank them for making a difference in your life. Sometimes all it takes is 30 seconds to have a life changing impact on someone else’s life.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.