My high school drama director passed away today. He was a Catholic priest teaching in a public school - irreverent enough to be cool, but stern enough to be respected by a theater full of unruly, hormonal teenagers. I probably haven't seen him in twenty years, but I still feel his influence in my life every day.
He taught me how to challenge myself and how to take risks.
He taught me the value of making difficult choices with integrity and the importance of doing the right thing instead of the popular thing.
He taught me how to work hard, how to persevere, and how to celebrate my accomplishments.
He taught me how to fail.
He taught me how to rely on other people and how to be a person on whom others could rely.
He taught me that it's possible to be both critical and kind - and that, in fact, it's often impossible to be the latter without also being the former.
He helped me to see that all the world really IS a stage, and he taught me to stand proudly in the spotlight, graciously in the shadows, and patiently in the wings.
I would not be successful in the job that I have, I would not approach parenting the way that I do, I would not be the person whom I have become, if it were not for him.
Rest in peace, Father. The world is a better place because of the hundreds of young lives you changed.
Thank you for making my life one of them.