“A Hand to Guide Me”

“It takes a tribe to raise a child.  You have to have people who are interacting with each other to raise a child, people who are connected to that child”

-Colin Powell

In “A Hand to Guide Me,” Denzel Washington crafts an inspirational work which focuses not only on leaders but also on the individuals who helped mold them throughout their lives.  The piece encompassed the stories of several influential figures; among the list are: President Carter, President Clinton, Colin Powell, Hank Aaron, Antwone Fisher, and John Mellencamp just to name a few.

I [Loman] picked this book up merely by chance.  I was in the library with my students giving them an opportunity to research information for their International Economics project when I glanced over at a shelf and saw the title “A Hand to Guide Me.”  I picked it up and immediately began reading the opening introduction.  For the past two days, I haven’t been able to put the book down as I anxiously anticipated the next story or event that helped to shape the lives of such influential figures in our society. As I read the piece, I couldn’t help but begin thinking about all the people who helped shape my life.

The first person that comes to mind is always my Great Grandmother.  I lived at her house more than my own as a kid.  I loved going to see her because she was always full of life and always allowed herself to become completely consumed with me.  It didn’t matter who was over visiting; when I arrived, she stopped whatever she was doing, came over and gave me a kiss and a hug and asked me how my day was.  She was the first person I can remember who ever really wanted to know everything about my day.  Looking back, it had to have been boring hearing about elementary school occurrences such as macaroni drawings, being the class leader for the day and things of the like, but she always listened intently and sought to hear more about my young life.  She made me feel like I was the most important person in the world and looking back now, it is clear to me that she played an integral part in giving me the confidence that I have in myself today.

I was also very fortunate to have both of my parents in my life.  My mom and dad supported every venture I desired.  When I decided I wanted to learn how to play piano, my parents purchased one and found a piano teacher for me. So many times, my dad would say, “You have to work hard to become successful, but I’ll do my best to give you all the tools you need to do so.”  Both he and my mom did just that for me my entire life, and for that I count myself incredibly lucky.  As I prepared to go to college, both of my parents took off work and traveled to each school I was interested in.  After traveling many miles and having visited all of my potential colleges, they asked me where I wanted to go and I told them Georgia College. The choice was mine and we sent in the in the acceptance form right away.  They never second guessed any decision I made for my future and I know their support both financially and mentally has always given me the strength to take on anything.

Whenever I needed specific advice on a particular subject, I always find myself running to my uncle.  He is the one who taught me what I would call the core values of life.  They are: learning the value of a dollar, treating people with respect, and that working hard will always pay off.  He often spoke of the importance of education and would say in order to become successful you must exhibit tolerance and be educated in as many things as possible.  He always made time to listen to me and help me in my life decisions.  Through his guidance and values, he too, has helped to make me who I am today.

I’ve been fortunate to have these people in my life and I am thankful this book reminded me of them.  However, it also challenged me with another much greater purpose—to be a guide to others.  I’m not the President of the United States, nor am I an actor, but I do have the ability to be instrumental in my students’ lives since I am a teacher.  This book reminded me of the many students I’ve crossed passed with and those whom I have yet to meet who may not have the same positive influences in their own lives.  “A Hand to Guide Me” forced me to reflect on how to ensure I maintain a positive influence on students both inside and outside of the classroom.  Many times in the book, the writer’s mentioned teachers who helped them along the way and as I read those passages it made me realize over and over again the importance of my profession.  I want every student I teach to be successful in their life and it is my responsibility to ensure each child who walks in the door of my classroom has an opportunity to realize their full potential.  On paper, my job is to educate, but in life my job is to give “A Hand to Guide” students in the right direction so that they might be equipped to succeed in their endeavors as countless others did for me.

“So go ahead. Train up a child in the way he should go… and watch what happens.”

-Denzel Washington


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