The Weekly Vista
Belief can create greatness
In “A 3rd Serving of Chicken Soup for the Soul,” there is a story about a student who was unlike most students. One day in the 11th grade he went into a classroom to wait for a friend. The teacher appeared and asked him to go to the blackboard. He replied, “I’m not one of your students.” The teacher said, “Doesn’t matter. Go to the board anyhow.” The student told him he couldn’t do that and when the teacher asked, “Why not?” the student told him he was mentally retarded. The teacher came over to the student and said, “Don’t ever say that again. Someone’s opinion of you does not have to become your reality.”
It became a liberating moment for the student, a time of great learning. The teacher, Mr. Washington, became the student’s mentor. Later that school year Mr. Washington addressed the graduating seniors. And in his speech, he said, “You have greatness within you … you can touch millions of people’s lives.” After the speech the student went up to Mr. Washington and asked him if he had greatness within him. The teacher replied, “Yes, Mr. Brown, you do.” The student thanked him and told him that one day he would make the teacher proud.
In his senior year it happened that Brown was placed in Mr. Washington’s speech and drama class. Although Brown was a special education student, the principal realized that this would be a good match up. Mr. Washington gave Brown a larger vision of himself. While other teachers passed Brown from class to class, Mr. Washington made more demands of him. He made him accountable. He enabled him to believe in himself. Years later the famous Les Brown produced five specials on public television. Mr. Washington saw the program and called Les Brown to tell him how proud he was of his achievement.
When others believe in us, we gain confidence in ourselves and are able to do great things. Naturally, we still must apply ourselves. Les Brown had to work hard to finish high school. But he was now motivated to learn. Our children need to hear from us that we believe in them. Our students, who could be our friends, relatives, or co-workers will be motivated to aspire to greater things when we believe in them.
— James “Skip” French is the pastor of Highland Christian Church, 1500 Forest Hills Blvd. in Bella Vista. Opinions expressed are those of the author.