The other day at school, one of my students saw me getting ready to toss out a bunch of worksheets the class didn’t use this week. I am by nature an over preparer and for those out there getting pissed about the slaughtering of innocent trees, I was putting the papers into the recycle bin.

The child came up to me and asked if she could take the papers home. I looked at her and gave her that confused puppy look. Why would she want to take home a bunch of copies of the same worksheet?

Flashback time:

A younger Michelle in fifth grade. Michelle sees her teacher with multiple copies of a worksheet. She runs up to the teacher and asks if she can have them. Michelle takes these papers home and the next day, she rounds up about a dollar’s worth of dimes. Off to the public library she goes with her dimes and the worksheets. It is there that she copies the worksheets for her “class”.

Michelle comes home to her classroom and all her pupils are already sitting in their make shaft desks. E.T. is there along with Polly Ann and whatever other dolls Michelle could find who were in need of some formal education.

Michelle, or as her students would address her, Ms. Wittle, begins to address the class. Ms. Wittle leads the class in the Pledge of Allegiance to the missing flag and then Ms. Wittle takes roll and collects the lunch money from the students who were buying lunch that day. Having concluded the business of the day, it is now time for the real learning to take place. Ms. Wittle hands out the math worksheets she got fresh from the copier and begins to allow her students some time to work the problems out by themselves. Ms. Wittle circles the classroom and evaluates her students. E.T seems to be having difficulty with his multiplication tables. Polly Ann is already half way done the fifty question worksheet.

As Ms. Wittle turns to her chalk board (which is really the wall of her bedroom), the principal (her mother) peeks into the classroom. The principal smiles because she knows that Ms. Wittle is a great teacher find; however, she must talk to the janitor about the lack of a chalk board.

Flash Forward:

So when that student asked me for the worksheets, I only hesitated for a minute. Could I just have handed the torch to another aspiring teacher? How many other students have looked at me the way I admired my teachers? Do I even want that responsibility? Did my former teachers want that same responsibility as well?

We never know what words we say that will stick with someone. We will never see how deeply the actions we take can inspire and crush another person. We run our lives as we do and it never dawns on us that someone, somewhere can be taking a mental snapshot of our lives and thinking it is pretty cool. We become heroes and we never know it. People look at our lives and think that is what they want to sign up for because it looks like we have it all.

The despairing truth is…we have nothing but that one small success. That one time when something went well in our lives…that time that the picture was taken…does not sum up a whole life.

Is it my duty to enlighten others about the pitfalls of clinging to a photo or should I continue to let that inspire?