Thursday, June 01, 2006

Standing Tall

I once had the honor of helping Justin to his feet.

Because of his muscular dystrophy, there were times when he would stumble in our hallways and was unable to stand back up on his own. So he would lay there, embarassed, until a classmate or teacher was able to help him. "Thank you", he'd say simply, and off he'd quickly move to his next class.

Justin Braswell died on May 30, 2006, awaiting a heart transplant in an Atlanta hospital. He had just completed his junior year at Montgomery Catholic Preparatory School.

There was a quiet strength to Justin Braswell, something that all of us admired. Like every teenage boy, he desired to be self-sufficient, which made the stumbling episodes so much more difficult for him. It would have been easy for Justin to use muscular dystrophy as an excuse for why he couldn't do things, why he couldn't succeed, why he may have needed special consideration by teachers. But he never did. He was a proud young man, trained well by his parents not to seek pity or special favors. He wanted to be treated like everyone else.

Rare kids, like Justin, remind us as educators of the great dignity of our calling. It is not we who lifted Justin, but Justin who lifted us.

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