I teach in the Human Services department at Long Beach City College and Henry was my student one Fall semester. He didn’t make it to final exams. He died while lying in bed reading, two weeks after he did something very special.
Henry was a Veteran who was enrolled in two of my night classes. He was galvanized. From the tiny snippets of information he gave me about his life, I can piece together nothing less than a life of anarchy and chaos. But Henry wanted to use his life for good. He wanted to be a good father, he wanted to be a good student. In fact, he was highly passionate about it.
One night, I passed back tests after a mini-lecture on the importance of studying and how you generally get what you give when it comes to grades. Henry did poorly on the exam and he was clearly not happy with himself. He came to me after class to tell me that he really took it to heart what I said. He joined the computer lab, he stayed on campus all day. He looked me in the eye and promised he was going to do better.
When I offered to give extra credit to students for bringing in outside speakers, Henry arranged a to have a speaker come to class. But he wouldn’t tell me who it was. He was so enthusiastic. He would say things like: “you’re not going to believe what this student of yours can do,” “Bring your camera” and “man, you are not going to believe who this speaker is.”
Needless to say, this piqued my interest.
Who the heck is this special speaker Henry booked? Were they famous or something?
The night of class I saw Henry standing in the parking lot, clearly looking to connect with the speaker for the evening.
I admit, I glanced around to see if anyone looked familiar.
By the time class started I was definitely curious. Then, in walks a woman who was my roommate 22 years ago and even a bridesmaid in my first wedding. This is the person I lived with when I was a waitress, working multiple jobs and studying for college every chance I got. A woman who decided to get her own education and now has a master’s degree. A woman with a 22-year-old daughter in college.
Whoa, can you take a few moments and let that all sink in?
I was the COLLEGE PROFESSOR and she was the guest speaker with a Master’s Degree who worked with veterans! Henry’s enthusiastic participation and act of kindness created a “full-circle” moment and a sense of gratitude that I felt in my cells. This event gave me a renewed enthusiasm about the journey we’ve all been on for decades.
Two weeks later, Henry is lying in bed at the Veteran’s facility where he connected with my former roommate. She was his counselor. He was reading books and his on-going issue with heart disease ended his life.
Was Henry a Student, a Teacher or an Angel? You decide.
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