On first glance, she looked like the class clown, with a quick, mischievous grin and that I-can-squeeze-one-more-in-joke-before-I-get-busted demeanor. I was teaching a community class to some eighth grade girls, and she was always the last girl to take her seat. She seemed like everyone’s best friend, and I worried that there’d be discipline problems with her, but she was respectful, just a lot of fun. A curtain of long, straight, shiny black hair, easy-going and athletic, I was relieved to see her go out of her way to include the less popular girls.
She was good-natured about the class I taught, volunteering answers here and there, even when she was off-base. She was easy to like.
Toward the end of the year, I started to see a change in her. Less carefree, her smile was still warm and genuine, but it took a barely-noticeable second longer to fly to her face. It made me sad to see her even a little quieter than she’d been. But at the same time, I started to see a real grace in her. Her whimsy was a special kind of wonderful, but there started to be a real depth to her. When I saw her with her family, I could see that she was responsible beyond her years. I’m not sure what went on, outside of the couple of hours a week that I saw her, but it mellowed her, and made her a little sadder, but not even a little less wonderful.
And at the end of the class, she stepped up, in a big way. She threw herself against an unexpected challenge and rocked it.
Class is over, now, and I don’t know if I’ll ever get to see her again. But I have faith that there’s something amazing in her that the world is lucky to get to see. The miracle of her and each one of the other 15 girls in my class (about every one of whom I could tell you stories of greatness) was that they came in as girls, and they left as young women. I wish I could take credit for it, but I don’t think it was me. It was just this amazing privilege that I got to be there, that I got to know them, and see it happen before my very eyes.