I want to be the kind of person who makes others feel safe. Who brings calm and peace with her wherever she goes.
I want to be the kind of person who has the confidence to enjoy being herself and not care what others think of her.
I want to be the kind of person who uses her creativity to the max – who explores her imagination and brings new ideas to life.
I want to be the kind of person who gives of herself eagerly – who commits to sharing life with others, even through the rough times.
I want to be the kind of person who cares more about other people than her phone.
I want to be the kind of person who gets excited about other people’s good fortune and celebrates with them gladly.
I want to be the kind of person who is faithful in prayer, expectant in hope, and diligent in love.
I want to be the kind of person who shines Jesus into other people’s lives with little effort.
I want to be the kind of person who looks for the beauty in all the small moments of life.
I want to be the kind of person who builds others up, not tears them down.
I want to be the kind of person whom others can trust – with their true selves, warts, secrets, struggles, and all – because we’re in this mess together and we’re there to strengthen one another.
I want to be the kind of person who stares mesmerized at sunsets, laughs in unexpected rain showers, and dances in the kitchen while making dinner.
At the end of this last school year, we went through some tough times in our fifth-grade classroom. There were a lot of social issues to be worked out – a lot of meanness to be dealt with – and a lot of grace to be given. One morning as I was eating breakfast and praying about how to address the next bout that had come up, part of the above came to me.
So I brought it into our morning meeting. After we had our usual routine of greeting each other and doing mindful breathing, I talked about our most recent issues and transitioned it into how our everyday choices are making us into the people we will become tomorrow. And I asked them to think about the kind of person they wanted to become.
Then I shared what I had written about the person I wanted to be, had them go back to their desks, get out their Writer’s Notebooks, and write for a little bit about what kind of person they wanted to be.
It was eye-opening to see what some of them wrote down – and also to see that some of them couldn’t come up with anything. I was amazed at how some of them shared things I didn’t expect – to be the kind of person who didn’t care what others thought about them, to be the kind of person who made other people smile, to be the kind of person who liked dancing in the rain.
And I also shared with them this realization – first of all, you don’t have to be those things already – it’s about who we want to become. And writing it down helps us articulate what we want to be known for and gives us something to work toward. Additionally, chances are that just by desiring those characteristics we’ll be more likely to develop them.
Secondly, I told my dear kidlets that even though I can look at that list and realize that I am some of those things, it doesn’t mean I will be all the time. There are some days I don’t care at all what others think of me, and there are other days when I care far too much. Some days I laugh in the rain, and some days I grumble because my feet are getting soggy from all the puddles.
Yet over time, as we grow older and mature, it’s more likely that we’ll become more of what we focus on – therefore I will become more like the person who doesn’t care what others think of her as social acceptance fades in importance to me.
The spiritual part of this (that I couldn’t share in a public school classroom) is that as believers, Christ gives us the strength to become more like Him every day. Ultimately, He’s the one shaping my viewpoint and my character traits so that the more I focus on Him, the more He makes me the person I want to become. I can do my best to be disciplined and develop all the right attitudes, but without the power of the Holy Spirit refining me, I will fall short of them.
Growing up can be a difficult thing to do. As a fifth-grade teacher, I get to be part of the beginning of that journey. And though they might forget that particular lesson, and what they wrote down, I hope they remember the principles that I shared with them and continue to think through the kind of person they want to be as they grow up.
Jobs and skills are important. Passing tests is [somewhat] important. But what I most care about is that they leave my classroom kinder, more compassionate, and more giving than when they entered.
Someone who impacts these little souls with Christ’s love – that’s the kind of person I want to be.
I pray that God works through me in ways I could never on my own – and makes me that very person.