This past week I was doing school visits down in Panama City, Florida. I did 20 presentations in 4 days. It was a lot of visits and a lot of children and A LOT of fun. I kept having to stop and pause to really take it in. For years I had been dreaming about school visits. About talking to kids, about teaching them that heart, passion, hard work and perseverance IS enough. That if you don’t give up, you cannot fail. I made every child pinky promise me they would promise to listen to that little voice in their heart when they finally heard it and to never quit – even when it got really hard. Even when they wanted to give up. Even when they wanted to cry from failing for the hundreth time. They all promised me. Because I told them I had cried. I had wanted to give up. But I didn’t and I got to be there now, talking to them. I said, “In 20 years, I want each of you to find me and call me up and say, ‘Miss. Michelle! I am a doctor, teacher, scientist, artist, musician, dancer, writer, veterinarian now! Can you imagine what the world would be like, what an AMAZING place it would be, if you all followed your dreams?'”
After I said that at one of my presentations, the last one actually, a little girl in the front row began to wave her hand wildly with a look of great worry on her face. “We’ll do questions at the end sweetie.” I said, but I could tell she was very worried about something serious.
Later when I was signing books, the little girl came up to me. With just as worried an expression on her face.
“Miss Michelle!! How am I going to call you???”
“What, do you mean, sweetie?”
“In 20 years, how will I call you? My mommy doesn’t have your number! And I made a pinkie promise!!!” (She was WORRIED.)
“Ooooh,” I smiled. “Okay, don’t tell anyone I am giving you this, because I don’t have enough for everyone, but here is my business card. It has my number on it. You can call me with this.”
The look of relief that washed over this girls face and the giant grin that replaced it was priceless. Then she skipped off like the weight of the world had been lifted off of her.
At another presentation, there was a little boy I saw that was crying at the end. He didn’t want to be in any class pictures and big, giant crocodile tears rolled down his face. I looked at his teacher and she said, “He is a great student, I have no idea what is wrong.” I asked if I could talk to him. She said yes. I asked him if he would hold my hand while we walked back to his classroom. He did. His teacher suggested he introduce me to ‘Bananas’ the monkey when we got int he classroom. She took the other students to a corner rug. The little boy brought me to a HUGE stuffed monkey. He was trying so, so hard to hold it together and be polite. “This….is….Bananas…” and he broke down crying. I hugged him tight. “Oh, sweetheart, what’s wrong?? Do you want to tell me?” I asked quietly. He looked at me, you could tell his heart was breaking about something. Finally he spoke, “My…doggie…just…died.”
Oh. My. My heart burst into a hundred million pieces of sorrow for this child. His dog had just died and he had to sit through an hour presentation featuring dogs. It must have been HORRIBLE. I hugged him tight and said I was so, so sorry. After he was done crying (and me too) I looked him in the eye. I asked if he remembered Bailey from my book – shaggy dog. He said he did. Well, Bailey was MY doggie when I was a kid and I promised I would pray to Bailey to go find his doggie and play with him and make sure he was happy and they would watch after us. He said that would be good and smiled a tiny bit. Then I drew a dog on a post it note and made it out to him and signed it Love, Miss Michelle. Then he smiled a little bit more. I told him I had to go, but I would never ever forget him or his doggie. And I never will.
One more more moment (in SO many) was a visit where a little blond girl ran up to me.
“How much are your books??”
“Hmmm, I bet I can get my mom to buy one and I have money saved up and can buy the other.”
“You would use your money to buy one of my books?!”
“Yes! I save it to spend on extra special thing.”
(and then I floated away from happy)
About ten minutes later the same little girl comes up to me. “Miss Michelle, Molly is crying. Her parents never get her anything at school. And she is crying. And she is my best friend. Is there anything you can do to help Molly?”
“Show me Molly.” I said.
She took my hand and brought me to a little girl, literally sobbing into a corner. I took her hand and asked if she would come with me. Molly and I walked away from everyone.
“Molly, do you like my books?” I asked.
“More than anything, but I know I can’t get them.”
“Is that why you are crying?”
“You know, you have a VERY special friend. She cared so much about you that she told me how much you loved my books and she didn’t want to see you sad.And you know what?”
“Obviously, someone that has THAT special a friend must be an AMAZING person. And I don’t meet AMAZING people just any ol’ day. Can I give you two of my books and sign them for you so that you will remember me?”
Oh my goodness. The smile that came across that girls face could have lit up an entire city. After I signed it for her she took them and ran to show her friend. Them, the smile on her friend’s face, that you remember, did not have any books of her own, smiled even MORE than Molly. The genuine look of happiness for her friend was something I will never, ever forget. When you hear the phrase ‘priceless’ that moment should be the definition.
And people, our future is in good hands. These children that are just starting out in life are a wonderful, joy-filled, compassionate force to be reckoned with. I for one, am not worried about putting my old age in their hands. But just to be safe, I will keep visiting school and encouraging as many of them as I can to follow their dreams!