I think about him all of the time, and although it is tough to think he never met my kids, it warms my heart that I see him in my children every day. I feel closer to him every day, even after his passing.
Every year since he has passed, I notice that I struggle more on the days or weeks that it gets closer to the actual date. I sometimes have to be reminded of the actual date, but it is like a biological clock that I know is around that time. I have often shared my parents’ stories with audiences and have really struggled in front of groups to talk about my dad, especially on or near the anniversary of his passing.
I was reminded of this when I received this tweet:
It took me about a minute, but then I remembered the day vividly. Here is the full Facebook post that Kaitlin is referencing:
Immediately, I was brought to tears.
To be remembered by a high school student in a one-hour high school assembly from seven years ago was humbling. But I also remembered Kaitlin and her kindness that day. I was struggling, and, as she shared in her post, she came up to me and offered a hug. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:
I look back on this day fondly because I had hoped that I had made a difference for those students as well. In fact, I actually saw some Kaitlin tweeted at the beginning of my presentation, and I had understood since I was talking about social media why she wasn’t excited.
By the end of the presentation, she had seen that I was not there to tell students what they should do but that I believed in what they could do with the power to connect with people all over the world. That initial tweet turned into a very positive exchange!
I totally understood how Kaitlin felt and, I hope that I could have students see the power of “Digital Leadership” which I defined in 2013 as the following:
Digital Leadership — “Using the vast reach of technology (especially the use of social media) to improve the lives, well-being, and circumstances of others.”
Kaitlin was a shining example of this definition for me in both 2014 and 2021. She made my day better both times, and I joked with her that I have talked to her twice in my life, and she has made me cry both times.
I remembered the day so well because I was so moved that day that I wrote about it. On that day, I shared the following:
“If we really believe that our students are “the future,” we need to help keep them safe, but we should also focus on the fact that they have the world at their fingertips and they can do something powerful. I know that one student with a simple tweet and act of kindness made a difference for me on a very tough day that and it will probably stick with me for the rest of my life. Hopefully, we can focus on empowering our kids, as opposed to telling them only what they “can’t” do.”
I don’t know if it will stick with me for the rest of my life, but here we are, 7 years later, and the impact is still felt.
Kaitlin, if you are reading this, thanks for reminding me of why I do what I do and letting me know that I made an impact on you all those years ago. You did the same for me on that day 7 years ago, and your kindness is still appreciated to this very day.