I see a pattern forming in my life. It starts about mid-month and heightens through the end of the month. What is my message for the month going to be? It marinades and simmers until the last moments and then it comes together. It’s actually kind of a fun journey.

Some would say I need to focus the messages on education’s legislative needs, the financial drivers before us and on the many things we have to celebrate. All could be true from one view or another and I do take them up from time to time. I also, and always will, continue to encourage everyone to come in or invite me out to visit with you as individuals or as groups about topics related to school matters you want to learn more about or understand better.

As importantly though I believe these writings should hopefully help us reflect on our mutual impact on the lives of our community’s children and youth. Every contact a child has with adults, positive or negative, whether in or out of school, shapes who that child will become. While school is important, a child’s life experience encompasses so much more. Their future success is defined by all of the world they encounter. Our common goal must to support and help them grow into the best version of themselves possible….

So here goes my message for February, the month of hearts and flowers…the month off giving. As adults, I am not sure we are fully appreciating how much our words and our actions impact the lives of those around us, especially that of children, young and old.

The loss of Kobe Bryant has shaken many of us in ways that are surprising even to ourselves. Now, my family and those who know me well would be the first to agree that I am one of the least knowledgeable and likely least appreciative of his athletic accomplishments, but I do greatly appreciate his drive to be a quality human being. He strived to be a good husband, a good father and a good friend as well as to be productive and positive not only on the court but throughout the whole of his life.

Like so many of us, I have watched replays of numerous interviews with or about him. One of the recurring message I found was that he was loved and supported by his family and friends, first and foremost as a person… a young boy… really child… before that of being an amazing athlete or star. He was told and shown that continually by those closest to him. A focal story that sticks with me described how he was once struggling with his shot and how his father made it very clear to him in action and word that his love and pride of him was not tied to the points that he scored; that above all he would always be loved regardless of his success on the court. Clearly it was the word and action of key adults that helped to mold him into who he became and to come full circle the many posts and stories of how his words and actions have impacted the lives of so many.

I’m next drawn to an event, obviously far less global, but in my world similarly striking. And may I say…the timing is almost ironic. We have a grandson who was born with Spina Bifida and does not have the use of his legs. He recently moved to Hawaii where his father is stationed in the Air Force. This week Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickman hosted the AFW2 (Air Force Wounded Warrior Program) CARE Event. It is an adaptive sport competition for wounded airmen. Our son-in-law volunteered and asked for permission to bring Tuck along. He was granted to do so and in the linked article you can capture the essence of the whole experience.

I video-conferenced with Tuck that evening. He beamed and shined beyond his usual happy engaging self. I will remember it always. He talked about the coin the colonel gave him and the race he was in, but the words that stuck with me most were “My dad told me how proud of me he was today.”

In Tuck’s world, with younger twin siblings who are now two and experiencing life without his challenges, the words and actions meant everything and will become a part of him that will help him as he grows and becomes his best self. Words and actions matter. Ultimately they make us who we are.

As adults, teachers, coaches, parents, caregivers, relatives, friends, neighbors, anyone we must always remember this. All of us are vital to helping all kids grow and flourish. Who a child is… is not defined by their skills or lack of them and we must work incessantly together to make sure they understand and appreciate that and their value as a human being.