I just wanted to take a moment to tell you how much I appreciate the many things you do as you seek to educate our young people. I know teaching can be one of the most rewarding professions, but I also know it comes with a level of discouragement as well. I want you to know I admire how you overcome the discouragement and keep showing up.
To those of you who instruct students in general education studies, thank you. You put in long hours to prepare your lessons, trying hard to develop creative methods to present them in engaging and informative ways. You then spend more hours grading assignments, writing feedback, and thinking, always thinking of ways to improve your delivery and help your students do better. You sometimes find yourselves blamed when a student's grade does not match his/her expectations, as if you randomly dole out whatever points you choose. I have watched you defend yourselves with professionalism, grace and dignity, and I appreciate you for doing that.
To my friends who teach Special Education, I think there is a special blessing from Heaven for your role. Do you realize you are often the voice so many disenfranchised, bullied, defeated young people need? Do you know how much they depend on you to show up each day, to bear the brunt of their sometimes very angry venting, and to still communicate how much you care about them? I do. I see it. I hear it. They need you. So, thank you.
Thank you teachers for being willing to stay in a profession where your talents and gifts will not gain you riches or fame or fortune. It takes special people to do what you do. And you are all special people. This country would be in sad shape without people like you! So, thank you.
From the bottom of my heart, I want you to know how much I appreciate your perseverance in the face of the many sacrifices, heartaches, frustrations, criticisms, and mounds of paperwork that come with your chosen profession. Thank you for sticking it out, and for believing in young people.
You are world-changers, and I am so grateful you are here.
Through the course of the past several years, as we have been on the Torch journey, so much of the experience has felt surreal. There have been tremendous highs that left me utterly speechless, which is not an easy thing to do. There have been lows that took my breath away, and caused me to question my sanity. There have also been a multitude of moments that were just - surreal.
The first time Sarah and I met our local radio personalities, Jon King and Mike Marino, felt surreal. I looked around the radio station and couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that we were really there, and really going to be interviewed. Jon and Mike are such personable, down to earth gentlemen, who in every way made me feel comfortable. But I just didn't feel - real. Who was I to have an opportunity like that? That moment did not fit with my personal ideas about who I am and what my life experience is like.
When Sarah and I met with Roger and Craig, the gentlemen who would be instrumental in finding and building our food truck - surreal. I was there in the restaurant with them, but at the same time, I wasn't. How could something so wonderful be transpiring right there, with me in the center of the action? Plain old me. I felt like I was watching somebody else listen to Roger and Craig as they excitedly designed the truck with us.
It was a very long drive from Brown City, Michigan to Brighton, Michigan. It is actually about 90 miles, but leading and following the food truck home for the very first time felt like a minute and an eternity at the same time. Sarah had never driven it before. I had never navigated for it. I could not believe we actually had it - and I remember thinking it couldn't be real - and what the heck were we going to do with something so big?
Experiencing the surreal lends an indescribable excitement to life. I don't always know when those moments are coming. Unexpected surprises happen all the time at the Torch, although not all of them lead down the path of the surreal. Surreal moments in life are euphoric and memorable.
Today has felt surreal all day. A year ago, we decided we were going to expand the Torch by adding the subsidiary, Torch 180. Throughout the past year, we have educated ourselves and worked very hard to do our parts in making 180 a reality. We have networked and connected with people, attended a multitude of meetings, presented our dream every time we have been invited to do so, and investigated countless leads on buildings and properties and partnerships. We have worked and re-worked our business plan - and it doesn't look like what it did when we began this journey.
And now, here we are. This evening, we will teach our very first culinary/ServSafe class. We are embarking on something which is an historical moment for the Torch. When I pause to think about the potential impact this organization can have on countless lives, my mind is boggled and it just doesn't feel real. I am half walking in this world, and half dancing on the clouds as I anticipate this inaugural class. The profound reality that we are but a year out from having just an idea - to actually launching our training is almost too much to comprehend.
I feel blessed, humbled, excited, afraid, prepared, and like I cannot, once again, believe it is plain old me in this life, at this moment. The pull on my life to make 180 a reality throughout this past year, has brought me to tears. I have quit a million times. And yet, I am always drawn back in by the knowledge of how necessary this is and how lives can be changed and impacted.
And, as we prepare to teach the very first class of this very amazing project, I find I cannot keep a grasp on reality. I need to pinch myself. This is really happening.
We are relational beings, and as we go through life we continuously enter into and out of relationships. Our earliest years of life shape our personalities and mold our ability to trust or not trust, and discern or not discern whether the people who come into our lives are good for us or not. Depending on what we learned about relationships, we either keep people in our lives, or move them out. Sometimes, the ability is warped or not well-formed, and we have to experience pain in order to learn what is good for us.
One of the most difficult experiences in life can be the ending of a relationship. There have been times when I had people in my life, and I did not believe it would be possible for me to live if they were no longer there. I marvel at how that really isn't true. Sometimes, we have to admit that someone is just bad for us, and we have to move on.
I have been in that situation and, if I felt particularly close to the individual, or dependent on him or her, ending the relationship could be incredibly painful. It is possible to be so close to a situation we cannot see how it harms us. When I reflect on my life and the people who have come and gone, I realize how much I have grown, And I think about how all the relationships of my life have helped me to grow and change. Even unhealthy relationships are part of the mosaic of my past. I am stronger because of them. I am more independent because of them. I know me better because of them.
I used to be ashamed of my seeming inability to develop healthy relationships, but not anymore. I embrace those learning experiences as much as I embrace the people who have lasted and stayed in my life. I now know a lot about how I choose friends, and how much of myself I will give away. I respect me. I realize that I am an infinitely valuable person who deserves healthy relationships - and all the other human beings I meet deserve the same. So, I have to be healthy; I have to know me; I have to set boundaries.
We all do. Hearts are precious and delicate and they can break. People can break. Relationships can threaten to break us. We matter too much to let that happen. Not everyone is meant to be in your or my life forever.
Sometimes, I just have to let go and face the pain of the end of a relationship, but always, in the back of my mind I remember that on the other side of the pain is a stronger, healthier me. I deserve to be healthy. The people I am close to deserve for me to be healthy. The same goes for you.