This I Believe

Jolene - Edgewater, Maryland
Entered on August 1, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: legacy

This I believe…

I believe in the power of heroes. I believe in the ability of one human being to touch the life of another person and affect profound change. As an adult I make an effort to acknowledge the grace and kindness of those who have shared a piece of themselves with me but, still I know so many of my heroes just do not know or believe in their impact. As a child who grew up with a mother who suffered from serious and undiagnosed mental illness, with poverty, and with no role models who had attended college my odds of success seemed grim. Like all children, I worked hard to keep up the appearance of normalcy and fit in. Thank God there was someone to see through me. In 9th grade my speech and debate teacher Mrs. O’Halloren, soon to be dubbed Mrs. O, allowed me to spend my study periods in her class assisting with small tasks and she drafted me for the debate team. Waking on Saturday mornings at 6am to meet the bus that would ferry us to neighboring counties, Mrs. O greeted us with Dunkin Donuts and a sleepy smile. She insisted that I was talented, gifted even, and pushed me to enter competition after competition where I won trophy after trophy for my oral arguments against or in favor of the issues of the day. She invited me to her house to practice before big tournaments, she shared some of the little details of her own life with me, and she listened to me. Most importantly, Mrs. O’Halloren believed in me. I don’t know that I really was a gifted orator or debater, likely I was about average. But her confidence in me and her kindness propelled me to great heights. Before Mrs. O I doubt I would have believed it possible to attend college on a full scholarship, and then move to graduate school, and eventually to become a school psychologist who works with troubled children. I have written Mrs. O letters over the years profusely thanking her, acknowledging her impact, and singing her praises. Her replies have been spotty and with a severely disabled husband to care for and the responsibilities of her own children this was to be expected. To this day I just don’t think Mrs. O knows how much she shaped my life. While Mrs. O may just have been doing what came naturally, being herself, sharing a kindness, and encouraging a student, it made all the difference to me. I believe in the power of ordinary people to be heroes and I believe that most of us don’t even know the extent to which we ourselves are heroes.