I was working with one of my doctoral students on her dissertation the other day. She has a great idea for her study but she couldn't figure out what her "theory" or "framework" should be. I asked her one simple question that she wound up saying helped her immensely. "Whose work has influenced you?" All of a sudden, she began talking about the guru in her field of study until she paused and I said, "That's it! Now write down what you just said and about whom you said it. Read more of her work and base your study on her theories."
With Fathers' Day on the heels of that discussion, I started thinking about how influential my parents were, along with so many other people, in my life. Just take a look at my former bookshelf behind my picture up above, and you will likely see names like Stephen Covey, Harry Wong, Todd Whitaker, Randy Pausch, and so many others who have had an impact on me.
From the time I came out of the womb, my parents had music playing in the house or they were playing the music themselves. My tiny little mother could tear it up on her baby grand piano like nobody's business. My dad played saxophone and clarinet (until a couple of years ago, by the way), and even sang a cover of Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" at Dave's and my wedding that had everyone looking around to see if Louis Armstrong, himself, was in the room. We listened to lullabies, classical, jazz, contemporary, and practically every other type of music in the world. Today, I use music to enhance my teaching when the opportunity fits. No accident, right?
Claudia Edgerton, my 5th grade teacher, wrote me notes and gave me encouragement when my parents were divorcing, and I am now friends with her on Facebook. She truly was one of the biggest reasons I became a teacher, and this lovely woman who cried while reading "Where the Red Fern Grows" to us was truly the reason I knew my students with Emotional Disturbances would want to read if they found a book that spoke to them.
A year after Dave and I got married, we were taking care of my mother when she was diagnosed with cancer in her larynx. Over the next several years, I watched Dave take care of my mom---mowing her lawn, picking up groceries for her, repairing household issues, and loving her. He didn't have to do it, but it was his sense of wanting to make things better for people that inspired me. I now make sure I always return my shopping cart, pick up dog poop, and open the door for folks who can't. What an amazing influence you have had on me, Dave.
Who inspires you? Who has influenced your life? your hobbies? your line of work?
Just for today, I challenge you to take a moment to thank the folks who have helped you become who you are, today. Other than those I mentioned above, I would never begin to create a list because I would most certainly leave out hundreds of people--hundreds of people who have helped me do the right things for me so I could do the right things for other people. Hundreds of people who have shape my choices for the work I do and how I do it. Hundreds of people who might say I helped them but helped me more by becoming the person I think God intended me to be.
At the funeral of one of the dearest and best music teachers ever known to man, I sang a bit of the song "For Good" from the musical, "Wicked". I think it summarizes precisely how I feel about the people who have changed me for good.