It was about this same time that my father shared a book he had had for many years: Edward R. Murrow’s This I Believe. The book was filled with 400-600 word essays from famous people about something they believed was important about either how people should live or how the world worked. I enjoyed reading the selections and thought, why not? Even though my students were only sixteen, seventeen, or eighteen, they might have something they believed in, so I set the task in front of them.
I told them it didn’t have to be earth shaking and it shouldn’t be too broad. It did not have to be all encompassing. In fact, the more specific the better, and I shared three selections from the book to demonstrate this. The result? Let me just say, I was blown away, and this assignment has become my favorite of the year. So attentive are the students to each others' readings that I reprint and bind each class’s statements and give each student his or her own copy.
Some students made us laugh with essays explaining why “Every girl needs a big bag, or “It doesn’t matter how fast you drive, you are going to get there in the same amount of time.” Others made us cry with topics such as “When life derails your train, you’ve got to find a way to get it back on the tracks." After a year of working and studying together, these students were willing to share a piece of their lives and souls with each other – some through giggles, others through tears. It did bring to light one thing I always knew was true and can now assert as something I truly believe – that there are still young people out there who are sensitive, bright, hard-working, tenacious, and persevering. There are young people who want to make a difference, who want to step up to the challenge and lead companies and countries, who want to create, and who want to cure.
I hear a lot of mumbling about the sad state of our youth, but rest assured. Those mumblers often have not spent much time with the young people of today. I believe that despite the very difficult world they live in, the youth of today are wanting to do the very best that they can, and all they need are adults to stand by them and help and encourage them rather than belittle and discourage them.