This week I had the privilege to talk with a bunch of middle schoolers. The night before I was to face these small monsters I was filled with terror. Scheming for any possible way to get out of it, I thought about feigning sickness. That lie would not have been too far off course noting the way my stomach was feeling. My biggest concern was based simply on my fear for survival. I was worried that a classroom full of middle schoolers would eat me for lunch. My assignment was to speak to 20 – 30 little people at 25 minute intervals nine times throughout the day. The eight graders came first and to my great delight when I looked up, they were listening and full of questions.
After my introduction, I wanted them to get to know me a bit, so I ask them some true or false questions. I had several outlandish false claims but the true ones seemed to cause their heads to tilt in wonder.
Which is true or false? (all true)
· As a boy I was shot in the head with an arrow?
· I was born into a Mennonite farm community and lived on a potato farm until I was six years old.
· As a youngster our family did not have enough beds so I slept in the bottom drawer of a chest of drawers until I was four years old.
· When I was your age I would not kiss a girl because I was afraid the girl would laugh at how silly my kiss was?
· I have had 20 car accidents, two motorcycle accidents and two of my car accidents happened on the same day fifteen minutes apart.
· I barely graduated from High School and swore I would never go to college.
I knew I had little to offer the brainiacs in the room. My hope was to offer encouragement to the kids where school came hard. That is a story I know well, even with nearly 50 years separating me from those days the feelings are as close as yesterday. My story, Angel with Wrinkles I hoped would give them a window into the beginning of my story and it did wake up most of the kids.
The crux of my talk laid out a few simple principles I have learned along the way.
o Everyone is smart at something. Maybe it isn’t school work but that is not evidence you are not smart at something.
o 80% of success is showing up ( I know not very original but still true)
o Fear is part of the process but push through it and take advantage of scary opportunities.
Who knows if anything said made a difference but I said what I know and I am hopeful. All in all I had more fun than I thought possible and I feel honored that I was allowed to share a bit of myself with some young people.