Show Your Strength
On Sunday, February 25th, I had the pleasure to speak to Duplin County's Young Authors. As much I talk to people, as much as I speak with children, can you believe that I was nervous? There is something about being in front of a crowd of kids that puts me on edge. Aside from the fact that their attention spans are short, they are our future, and who wants to be the one that says something stupid that steers them wrong? Not me!
So, I prepared and practiced my speech over and over again. I thought about it so much that I dreamed about it. Actually, I nightmared it. Early Sunday morning, I woke up thinking I had just blown it. Luckily, it was only a dream. In real life, I did really well. So well, in fact, that a few students and their parents wanted my autograph. Mine...little old Laneshia Lamb, I will be forever changed because those kids found enough value in what I shared to decorate their souvenir book with my signature.
It's only right that I share the story I presented to them with all of you.....
Timmy was a middle school. He was in the eight-grade to be exact. He stood about four-feet tall. So, we can all assume that he wasn't playing center for the school's basketball team. He was extremely shy and preferred to fade into the background. Everyone towered above him, making it easy for him to quietly make his way through the halls. In the fair chance that he was spotted, he was reminded of just how small he was.
Timmy didn’t involve himself in sports. Go figure, right! He didn’t think he had a chance. Instead, he put all of his focus in his studies. The classroom was his field. It was his basketball court. Although he excelled in the classroom, he never let anyone know just how good he was. He’d managed to make it pretty far without anyone knowing he had perfect scores across all subjects.
Timmy wanted to stay hidden. His experiences being seen haven’t been pleasant ones. He’s been pushed, he’s been dunked, he’s been stepped over, he’s been called names. Mainly because he was so small. And he feared that if his ‘admirers’ knew he was a little boy genius, that would only fuel their fire.
So, Timmy came to school. He did his work. He endured whatever he had to, and then he went home. One day, his teacher asked him to stay after class. She looked him in the eye and said “Timmy, you’re smart. I need you to speak to the class. I would love if you would share you note taking process. How you prepare for tests, and any other tips you have. You’re the only one in the class who appears to get it. Will you help me please?”
Timmy stood there, stoned face. He was mortified. He did not want to stand in front of the class and have all of those eyes on him. What was she thinking? Barely moving his lips, he said, “No, Ms. Pines I can’t help you. I prefer the quiet of the background.” Ms. Pines rested her hand on Timmy on his shoulders and said, “I want you to think about it. I know you can do it, and I think you should.” Timmy dropped his head and walked out of the room.
Timmy walked with his head down so often that he knew the exact number of tiles between this class and the school exit. He made it to the backseat of his mother’s van, with Ms. Pines request replaying in his mind. His mother said hello, but Timmy didn’t hear her. He was lost in his thoughts.
Speaking in front of the class is a terrible idea. They will laugh at me for sure. Timmy thought. He convinced himself that sharing how smart he was would only end in his demise.
A couple weeks passed and Ms. Pines remained persistent. Every morning Timmy would enter her classroom, she’d hold up her hands and say, “ready yet?” Timmy would drop his head even lower and hurry to his seat.
One day, Johnny the captain of the football team, stopped Timmy from leaving after the bell rang. Timmy was shaking so hard, his shoe strings came undone. “Hey Timmy, let me talk to you for a minute.” Timmy just stood there with his head down, preparing himself for what would come next.
“Do you mind if I sit with you at lunch?” Timmy looked around for the camera crew. He was sure he was being punk’d, but no one was there. “What are you looking for?” Johnny asked. “Nothing,” Timmy mumbled. “I don’t know how good you are, but you never complain about your grades. I assume it’s because you’re smart.” Johnny stopped talking and waited for a response. “Timmy! I apologize for picking on you so much man, but I really need your help. My mom told me she’s pulling me off the team if I don’t get my grades together.” Timmy thought for moment. He considered walking away and leaving Johnny to handle his own problems, as Johnny had, so many times, left him to handle his. But instead, he lifted his head a little and stammered okay.
They both walked down the hall together. Timmy was still a little nervous, unsure if this was really happening or if it was some sick joke waiting to unfold. They walked through the cafeteria doors. Johnny headed to the serving line and Timmy headed for an empty table. He unpacked his lunch and started eating. A few moments later, Johnny joined him and a hush fell over the cafeteria.
Johnny ignored the change in the atmosphere. Timmy did not. His shoulders tensed as his eyes danced left and right. “So, how smart are you?” Johnny asked between bites of his pizza. “Ms. Pines has never mentioned you in class, and you never say anything.” Timmy continued to eat. He really didn’t want to tell him how smart he was. He wanted to remain in the shadows. Timmy didn’t want to admit that he’d made perfect scores on everything since kindergarten. Johnny continued. “I can tell you’re smart though, but how smart?” Timmy stopped eating and continued to sit in silence as he contemplated if he really wanted to answer Johnny’s question. Johnny tapped the table. “Dude, you in there?” Timmy reached for his backpack and pulled out his folder of returned tests. He placed it on the table. Johnny sat there waiting, eyes wide and bright, as if this confirmation meant something for him.
Timmy opened the folder and pulled out results from their last ten tests. On each one, in the top left corner, were 100’s written in red pen. Johnny’s eyes got bigger and bigger as he flipped page after page. “Umm, why have you been hiding this? This is so cool! I’ve always wanted to get better grades, but you know. I try, sometimes I don’t, but a lot of times, I do. It just doesn’t always click for me. I am a natural on the football field, the classroom, not so much. I’ve always wished it were easier for me. It looks like it’s easy for you, teach me your ways, Timmy, teach me your ways.” Johnny jokingly pleaded with his hands in praying position.
Timmy laughed for the first time in a long time. He relaxed. His shoulders were less tense, he held his head a little higher, and spoke a little louder. More confidently. Timmy felt good. Johnny made him feel good about being so smart. He didn’t ridicule him like he had expected. They both pulled out their notes from the last class and Timmy explained how he took his. He showed Johnny how he prepared for tests. Johnny watched and listened intently, wowed at how easy Timmy made it sound. Before long, they both had huge smiles on their faces.
Timmy noticed a crowd forming out of the corner of his eye, and immediately his nervousness returned. His shoulders tensed, and his gaze lowered. What’s about to happen? I knew there had to be a catch. Some kind of trick. Why else would he sit with me and talk with me? Me? ME! All of these thoughts rushed through Timmy’s head. Johnny broke the silence. “Guys! You have to check this out. Timmy’s like the smartest dude in the world. He’s reviewing what Ms. Pines went over and I know I’m going to crush that test next week. You guys should sit down and listen too.”
Johnny’s best friend Jacob takes a step forward and flips through the graded pages on the table. He looks at Timmy, then waves the rest of the crew over to see. They all look in shock at all of the perfect scores. They pat Timmy on the back and tell him how awesome he is. “Why haven’t you ever said anything?” Jacob asked. “Because you guys already give me a pretty hard time, I didn’t want to make it worse.” Timmy replied. “Dude, we just like playing around, you should have told us to stop.” Jacob added. “I know we can be jerks, but you never said anything, you just stood there, almost like you were waiting for it to happen.” Yea, I was. Timmy thought. “You shouldn’t be more willing to endure our knuckleheadisms than you are to share your gift. We are showing our strength every day, negatively obviously, but nonetheless we’re showing it. We are leaders, trendsetters, and naturally confident.” “Ummm, we should definitely show those strengths differently,” Johnny interrupted. Everyone laughed except Timmy. He was deep in thought. He had never considered his smarts a strength.
All of sudden, Timmy jumped up from the table and darted toward Ms. Pines classroom. As soon as he hit the door and saw her seated at her desk, he panted yes. Ms. Pines, startled and relieved that he finally agreed, stood from her desk and walked toward Timmy. “I don’t know what inspired this change of heart, but I am grateful. Your classmates need you Timmy.”
That evening Timmy presented his studying habits to the class. The entire atmosphere seemed to shift in those moments. Timmy slowly came out of his shell, as he shared his strength with his peers. His voice more audible, his head higher, and his shoulders more loose. Johnny shot him a thumbs up. Timmy smiled.
Johnny and Jacob’s crew didn’t stop their kuckleheadisms cold turkey. They did, however, embrace Timmy a lot more. They looked up to him because he was strong in an area where they were not. Timmy spoke up for himself. He stopped counting the tiles in the hallway between class. Instead, he began talking to his schoolmates, and word traveled fast. Timmy went from a shy kid, who preferred to fade in the darkness, to a more open kid, a more sociable kid, an all-around more confident kid. His classmates performed a lot better, and Ms. Pines was a lot less stressed. Simply because he finally decided to share his strength.
We can learn quite a bit from Timmy. His story illustrates for us the importance of showing your strength. Recall what that voice whispered to me before I came to the stage:
We all have strengths. Many of us are fortunate enough to have more than one. I urge you to show them, positively of course. I want you all to create a wave within your schools and communities, a movement even, of showing your strengths. Use them to uplift others, to empower them, and to encourage them to do the same with their own strengths. In a time when there are a lot of bad things happening, let’s amplify the good.
Young authors, are you showing your strengths? If not, what are you waiting for? Let’s change the world. Let’s shift the dynamics of our classrooms. Let’s impact someone’s life, for the better, with our strengths.
Instead of keeping them bottled up, for fear of what someone may say or do, show them to the world. Because guess what, the world is waiting and it needs you.
Duplin County Young Authors Celebration | February 25, 2018 - "Show Your Strength"