Working in education for the past 10 years, I have gotten to know a lot of kids. I have often felt that God has put me in these kids lives so I can help teach them something. Other times, I have honestly felt that God put some special kids in my life so they could teach me something. In all of my years a few special kids stick out in my mind. Two of these students I met during my first few years as a high school principal. These kids stood out because they had a combination of characteristics that I like to describe as "fireproof." One happened to be a female and the other a male. They were several grades apart and for all I know, they never even really knew each other.
Each of these kids...
- ...was a unique individual. They were unaffected by the usual fads and passing fancies of normal high school existence. Where as many high-schoolers biggest fear is standing out or being different, these kids simply did not care. They embraced their individuality and brought out the unique traits of others. They followed their own drummers, and often, that drew others to them. It was always interesting to see how much other kids, from every different social group, respected these two individuals. I believe even the stereotypical self-involved, boy (or girl) crazy, self absorbed teenagers saw a difference in these young people that they themselves wished they had as well.
- ...put others before themselves. They were deeply in-tuned to the fact that there is a great big world around them full of people with needs, both big and small. Even as 16 year old kids, they were eager to find ways to help meet those needs. Whether that meant volunteering for local organizations or taking on mission trips halfway around the world, they lived their lives for others.
- ...were leaders. They were not the student body president or the team captain, but they led nonetheless. Leadership is not a position, it is an ability and they had it in spades.
- ...had a deep sense of faith and family. I consider myself a spiritual man. My Christian faith is very important to me and has sustained me during the tough times in my life. These two kids that come to mind each had their own deep seated sense of faith. Faith in God, faith in their families and friends, and faith in the basic goodness of the human race.
- ...understood the point of life. It was clear that these kids knew that life is about collecting experiences, and that friendship, love, and the memories they make are the only things that matter in the end.
- ...lived life on purpose. They didn't have every step of their life's journey planned out in detail. I don't believe any teenager should...heck I'm 33 and I can't tell you for sure what I want to "do" with the rest of my life. However, they knew they were here for a reason and their goal seemed to be to help others as much as they could, where they were at that time, and live life intentionally. Too often teenagers sit back and wait for life to happen to them. We stereotype them as lazy and indifferent. Those adjectives will never be used to described these two young people.
To sum it up, they were fireproof. Fireproof because they seemed almost immune to the fires that can consume young people in the tumultuous teenage years. The fire of indifference, the fire of popularity, the fire of selfishness, and the fire of "cool." Don't get me wrong, I did not know everything about these kids. I am sure they have had their moments of self doubt, fear, and weakness when dealing with trials, just as we all do. But the way they lived their lives day in and day out is a testament to their fireproof nature. For as long as I live I will never forget these two students.
I often wonder, what makes these kids the way they are? They both have awesome parents and caring families. They have surrounded themselves with friends that build them up and make them better people. Do genetics play a role? Is there a manual for this stuff?
As my wife and I work on our most important calling in life, the raising of three daughters and a son, my hope is that we can instill and cultivate this same fireproof nature in each of them. I can think of no greater advantage to give any kid as they navigate the fires of life.