“Do you see these?” I ask, pointing to the dozens of packing slips I have taped to the wall next to the fire escape of my classroom in Lincoln Heights, Los Angeles, California.
I continue. “Do you realize what these mean? Each and every one of these papers means that a random stranger believes in you. In fact, many random strangers believe in you. People out there in the world want you to succeed.”
If this were movie, all the students would be looking. This is reality, only some do.
In a famous 9th-century commentary on the book of Deuteronomy, Rabbi Joshua ben Levi quotes the enigmatic last words of Psalm 55:19—“There are many with me.”
“And who are they?” the 3rd-century rabbi of the Talmud is quoted as asking as the text itself offers no more information.
Then he answers—without explaining the source of his knowledge—“They are the angels who watch over people. An entourage of angels always walks in front of people, calling out. And what do they call out? They say ‘Make way for the image of the Holy Blessed One.’”
The packing slips come with each fulfilment of my donorschoose.org grant request.
My “We Make Mistakes. Please Buy Us Some Erasers” request was one of the most funded grants of 2010. Boxes and boxes and boxes of erasers arrive.
I give them to every student in each of my classes. And then, when more and more shipments arrive, I hand boxes of erasers to every math and science teacher in the building.
“Why don’t you write to the people at Twinkies to see if they care about us?” jokes Natalie, a snarky student when she’s done listening to my Coach Lasso routine near the fire escape.
Lao-Tsu wrote: “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength.”
We all love the feeling of knowing someone believes in us.
My grandma gave me that feeling.
As best I can, I do this for my bride, my children, my friends, my students, and others I meet. I love them. And, give them strength.
I get a voicemail on the school phone looking for Natalie’s math teacher.
The slightly-southern voice explains, “Natalie’s note to us made it all around Hostess, passed from employee to employee before it landed on my desk here in marketing. Your student wrote, ‘I write not really asking you to send me Twinkies, although that would be nice. I write to you to just see if my math teacher is right, and that people care. Would you mind writing me back to let me know that someone cares?’
The voice continues, “Tell Natalie that Kristin and lots of people here at Hostess care. We do care. People do care. However, please let her know that it is not Hostess policy to send out Twinkies.”
Weeks later, giant boxes arrive with hundreds of Twinkies that Natalie distributes to students throughout the building.
Can you believe it for yourself?
That there are many who believe in you?
That they know, like I do, that you matter?