ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

THE MIRACLE OF CHANGE

Last Sunday I saw a miracle in church.

Not a mountain-moving, Red-Sea-parting, giant-Philistine-smiting kind of a miracle.  Nothing that dramatic or intense.  It was just the common, ordinary, everyday miracle of change.

And it was remarkable.

Of course, I didn’t actually see the change take place.  As is generally the case, it has happened gradually over time.  What I saw on Sunday was the consequence of change, as a great young man took his new place on the front row as a lay leader in his local church congregation.  But as I watched him walk boldly, confidently to the front of the chapel, I couldn’t help but reflect on the things I knew of the last 10 years of his life.  And marvel at the miracle.

Which is not to say that he was the world’s worst 15-year-old.  He wasn’t.  He was a good kid – just . . . you know . . . inconsistent.  He was terrific at some things – he was a loyal and dedicated employee at the convenience store at which he worked, and he was without a doubt the hardest-working bench warmer on two state championship basketball teams.

But he was not so terrific at other things.  Like school, for example.  He was bright – no question about it.  Maybe too bright.  Every teacher said he was a promising student: he promised to go to class; he promised to do his homework; he promised to turn in his assignments; he promised to study for tests; he promised to actually show up to take tests.  He promised and promised and promised.  But he rarely came through on his academic promises.

Which means he rarely came close to his academic promise.

“You hear that sound?” his father asked after reviewing the young man’s first high school report card, which looked for all the world like a “Sesame Street” lesson on the letters D and F.

“What sound?” the boy asked, straining to hear.

“That loud slamming sound – way off in the distance,” his father said.

“No,” his son said.  “I don’t hear it.”

“Well, I do,” the father replied.  “I hear it loud and clear.  It’s the sound of Harvard, Yale and Stanford slamming their doors shut on your future.  And if you’re not careful, the next sound you hear will be the sound of the janitors locking the gates at the community college.”

He made it through high school, but just barely.  Along the way he had some good, successful moments during which it seemed like he was finally catching hold of that ever-elusive “potential” everyone kept talking about.  But somehow those moments always seemed to get lost in the dark, disappointing shadows of stupendously bad choices.

I won’t go into detail.  There’s enough pain and trauma in this newspaper today.

Let’s just say that as he came to the end of his high school career his feet were squarely planted on a path leading nowhere.  And he had a choice to make.  He could continue along that trail, which would take him to more and greater disappointments and an unfulfilled life.  Or he could make a course correction – for college, and for life.

And that’s what he decided to do.  Somehow he found the courage to make the changes he needed to make.  It wasn’t easy.  The higher road is rarely the path of least resistance.  He had years of bad study habits to break, and there was a price to be paid for all that inattention to high school teachers.  But with faith in God, a good work ethic and the love and support of his high school sweetheart, he has worked his way to a stellar grade point average, a spectacular score on the LSAT and, as of last Sunday, a uncomfortable seat on the front row at church.

Just your garden-variety miracle.

The miracle of change.

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— © Joseph Walker

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Look for Joe's book,
"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com.