Sunday, January 23, 2011

Am I done yet?

This is Mr. Weber's address to students on January 24, 2011.

There’s a mirror along the back wall of Snap Fitness and since walking on a treadmill is tedious and boring, I often watch the trainers working with their clients. One day there was a lady who was about sixty, and the trainer was really pushing her to go beyond her comfort zone as she lifted some light weights. She kept saying, in near despair, “Am I done yet?” and he kept saying, gently, “just a few more, you can do it.”

The truth is, she looked pretty miserable the whole time she was exercising. But afterwards, when she was finally done, there was a big smile of accomplishment (and relief) on her face.

It struck me that all of us, really, underestimate ourselves. We are capable of so much more than we think we are capable of, limited by our own vision of who we are and the box we build for ourselves and operate within. We may think we’re terrible in math, and that pessimism in ourselves becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because we then give up too easily, convinced that the Math course we’re taking is too hard, or that a problem is beyond our comprehension.

Much worse than that, I have known people who were convinced that they were fundamentally bad, irredeemable, incapable of living morally, so they lived their lives as sinners, filled with self-loathing, unwilling to believe they were worthy of being happy.

Many years ago, there was a junior girl who had the reputation of being “loose,” based on some situations she allowed herself to get into. Her life was spiraling downward: she was beginning to drink, probably dabbling with marijuana, her grades were dropping, she was fighting with her mother too often, and her friendships were changing for the worse. I called her to the office, and I think she was expecting a lecture. Instead, I told her about a freshman girl who was having a hard time and needed tutoring. “But what she needs more than that is a friend,” I said. She looked at me with sadness. “She’ll need a better friend than me, Mr. Weber. You don’t know what I’ve been doing.”

I remember getting very serious and looking into her eyes. “I know exactly what you’ve been doing,” I said. “But I also know who you are, deep down. You can help this girl. Will you help her?" I asked. You could almost see her sit up straighter. “Yes, Mr. Weber, I will.”

She became an excellent tutor, but more importantly, she became like a big sister to this girl. And by serving someone else, she was able to move past this bad period in her life and slowly become herself again. When I handed her the diploma, instead of the usual handshake, she gave me a hug. "Thank you," she whispered, "for believing in me."

God’s dream for us, his belief in what we are capable of achieving, is far beyond our own. We are limited by our own vision, unable to see in ourselves what God sees, and so we trap ourselves inside the box we create. But we need people that know us deep down, who can support us, encourage us, and challenge us, and by so doing, smash that box into smithereens.

That, in a nutshell, is the mission of Pope John Paul II. That’s the job of your teachers. I was speaking to one of you recently who said about a teacher here: “He frustrates me every single day. Whenever I think I’ve done well, he says, ‘you can do better.’ But I appreciate him, because I know he cares for me and wants me to succeed. “

That’s a fantastic compliment to this teacher, but it’s also speaks highly of the young lady who recognizes what we often fail to recognize: that those who challenge us do so because they see in us, deep down, something that we might not even see in ourselves, and that they love us and want the best for us.

So as you rewrite a paper, or struggle with a math problem, or run laps for a ball team, or come in for tutorials to get extra help because you don’t understand something, and you ask your teachers or coaches, “Am I done yet?” I hope you’ll here them tell you, gently, “just a few more. You can do it.”

1 comment:

R.M.Shaw said...

Not only do we need to be thankful for the wonderful teachers at JPII, but for their leader. The messages you bring to our students, our children, are far greater than academics alone. Believing in our children is an immeasurable gift, and we're thankful for your leadership and guidance and for all the faculty and staff at JPII.