ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

STUDENT OF STUFF

Beth is our youngest daughter, and the best student of all of our children.

Which isn’t to say that she’s the smartest or the brightest or the cutest or the best dancer (yes, I’m trying to do a little quick PR with her brothers and sisters here – hope you don’t mind).  It’s just that throughout her junior high and high school years she has applied herself extraordinarily to her studies.  She has taken hard classes – you know, math and science and Latin and stuff – and she has done very well.  She takes great pride in her grade point average, which isn’t the highest in her class but it’s still pretty darn good.

At least, it was.  Until this last term.  And now . . . well, I won’t say the doors of Harvard and Stanford have slammed shut on Beth.  But she’ll have to get in through the service entrance.

To be fair, it wasn’t really Beth’s fault.  During the most critical week of the last term of her junior year, she got sick.  It wasn’t anything really serious, thank heavens, but it did lay her up for more than a week.  She tried to fight through the fog of illness to keep up with studies, but each day she fell further and further behind.  By the time she got her health back, she was hopelessly lost in a few classes.  She scrambled like crazy for the last few weeks of the term, but with the tough schedule of classes she was taking she could never quite catch up.

We haven’t actually seen her grades yet, but Beth knows it isn’t going to be pretty.  And we’re OK with that because we know how hard she tried.

Of course, one bad term isn’t going to keep her from graduating from high school with an excellent academic record.  She still has the four terms of her senior year during which she can rebuild her grade point average.  The problem is, this bad term probably came at the worst possible time as far as college scholarships are concerned.  Those applications will have to be in before she has a chance to do much rebuilding.

Which sort of changes everything as far as her plans for the future are concerned.  There is a particular university she would like to attend for her undergraduate work, and she was in line for a possible scholarship.  Now she’s just hoping she is accepted for admission.

So you would think Beth would be walking around with a dark cloud over her head, muttering – in Latin, of course – vile oaths about calamitous fate and capricious destiny or whatever it is that distraught people mutter when they mutter in Latin.

But she isn’t.  No muttering at all – in Latin or any other language, as far as I can tell.

“There isn’t anything I can do about it now,” she said the other day, with a philosophical tone that would have made Socrates proud (especially in his pre-hemlock days).  “I’ll just do the best I can and see what happens.”

Meanwhile, she’s got a great attitude.  She’s exploring her academic options beyond high school and figuring out how she can save up enough money to pay for her education.

Oh, and she’s going back to her original hair color: blonde.  I don’t know if this is significant or not, but she used to feel that other kids at school didn’t take her seriously academically because of . . . you know . . . the whole blonde thing.  For the past year or so she went to an assortment of darker hair shades – some on purpose, some by accident.  But now she’s blonde again, and I think it has something to do with all of this.

I’m just not smart enough to know what.

But I am smart enough to learn something from my daughter.  Through her example she’s reminding me that stuff happens.  And it can be frustrating, because it can change everything.  But when it happens, the important thing isn’t the “stuff,” but how we choose to respond to it.

Now, if only I’m as good a student of stuff as she is . . .

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— © Joseph Walker

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