“I get it now.”

    This past week, I had the pleasure to speak at a conference where the attendees were both educators and students, at a 70/30 split. It was an incredible experience, and the enthusiasm from the students for the event was infectious for not only me but the entire room. I had the opportunity to connect with so many of the students, and they had shared so many stories of leadership in their communities, and it was inspiring to see examples of students not waiting for tomorrow to lead, but doing it right now. But one interaction I had with a student has stuck with me since that day.
    When I speak, I often share my parent’s immigration story and how their sacrifices have made such an impact on the life of myself and my siblings. I often remind myself that they did so much for us with so little, that I would not be comfortable doing so little with so much opportunity. My dad passed away over six years ago, and I miss him every day. My mom in her 80’s is still an incredible learner and would do anything for her kids. I am much more appreciative now that I am a parent.
    After my talk, a student came up to me and asked if I had a moment. He shared the story of his father, also an immigrant to North America, and the story of how much he worked to give his son the opportunities he had now. He then told me that his father was really hard on him growing up and that he even resented him often. He then said, “As I was listening to your talk, I totally changed my view on my dad and now appreciate him in a way that I didn’t before I listened to you speak about your own parents. I didn’t understand why he did things the way he did, but I get it now. Thank you.”
    I started tearing up.
    That moment with this young man was something that reminded me that our words and stories could make a difference in the world to others, so I am going to do my best to keep that impact positive. His story inspired me as well, and made me miss my dad even more. I will never forget that moment and will cherish that interaction forever.
     

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