“Hi, Mrs. Mack!”
I looked up from my seat in the high school auditorium to see a young lady standing in the aisle and smiling at me. She looked shockingly like…but, it couldn’t be…but, yes, it was!
“Hey, Toni!” I answered back. “How are you?”
But, I could tell already that Toni was doing great. She was wearing a t-shirt that showed me she had made the sports team I knew she’d planned on playing for once she got to high school, she was here for a night performance of the school’s musical (something she would have sneered at in the past), and she was greeting me cheerfully, with a broad, happy smile.
My mind flashed back to the Toni I’d known two years ago–an argumentative eighth grade girl who spent more time trying to prove herself in negative ways that positive ones. I remembered the talks we’d had about making good choices, and the times her parents and I had sat together with her and mapped out plans for her to make it successfully through my class. I remembered her sullen looks and the stiff body posture she took on when she was angry. But, of course, Toni was much more than just an angry girl, battling against the adults in her life who sometimes pushed too hard for her to do the right thing. She was a talented athlete and a fast learner and, in the end, an excellent student. When I’d watched Toni cross the stage at her eighth grade promotion ceremony, I felt sure of the progress she’d made. But, of course, I couldn’t be exactly sure. Until tonight, when I ran into her by chance, and saw for myself the young woman she was becoming.
I’d come to the high school to see another student, one who had asked me to come see her perform in her first high school musical. Moments after Toni walked away, the lights dimmed and Mia came out onto the stage.
My heart soared. I had come out after a long day at work to see one successful, happy student. I’d gotten so much more.