“One hour!!!” read the text message I received from Kalli, an 8th grader at Dalhart Jr. High School, at 1:35pm today. Kalli is one of my biggest fans, full of spunk and energy herself, and she was getting really excited for my return to her school. Shelby, the cutest 8th grader you could ever imagine, with long brown hair and brown freckles spotted upon her pale white nose, also knew I was coming back. Her text to me that morning said, “I am so excited to see you!”
Me and Shelby:
And Jori, another blue-eyed Jr. High student, surprised me at 7:38am this morning with a message saying, “hey this is Jori the one from Dalhart who wanted to be a marine biologist so I hear you’re comin’!! I’m excited!” The energy was brewing, the kids were looking forward to something exciting happening this afternoon, and that was going to be me. I was wanted. It was me who these Jr. High girls where looking to see, looking up to, wanting to be inspired by...it was up to me to bring it on.
Selene, my dear host mom, was my event planner here in town, and she escorted me through the doors of the Jr. High. As soon as I walked in, a girl called out to me, “hi Katie!” Immediately I felt at home. Familiar faces during a year of new everything are candy; I ate it up. I could hear feet and bodies pounding on what seemed to be bleachers inside the school gym. What commotion! Voices, screams, the pitter patter of feet running across the gym floor. What was going on in there? Ah! I am going into a room full of hundreds of middle schoolers...and I am overflowing with excitement. I took a deep breath knowing it would be my last for the next 60 seconds. Selene opened the doors to the chaos, and I stepped into the doorway, knowing not what would explode in front of me...
“WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!! Katieeeeeeee!!!! YAAAAAAA!!!!!! Wooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!” the kids roared! My face morphed into a beaming expression of happiness and thrill. I am here! I have returned! I am going to inspire the heck out of all of you now!
The Dalhart kids listening to me SPEAK:
I have never been cheered into a room so passionately and uproariously as I was this afternoon. It was one of the top 10 experiences of my life. I want to believe that this emotion was not about me, but rather this cheer and joy was about what I did, who I was, and what I stood for. What did the kids, Kalli, Jori, and Shelby included, cheer in today? Was it me? Was it someone who represented any and all possibilities? Was it some famous runner chick? Was it a role model? Who were each of them cheering in?
I’ve gone through a metamorphosis over the past 11 months. I am becoming myself more than I could have ever imagined, and experiences like what happened in the gymnasium of Dalhart Jr. High are those that have shaped me. They are the moments that I live from (even though I might not be living for them all the time). Going back to visit with kids, and being welcomed back with such exuberance, makes me realize that what I am doing is changing the world. Most of the time when we do good things in the world we never actually really know how we had an impact. How did the mural you painted in that run-down town change the economic situation of the place? How did you tutoring a girl all through middle school help her to grow up strong, if at all? All the people and kids who ran with me and heard my message, how have they changed their outlook on life since I came and left? For the kids in Dalhart, I know that I made a difference. I must believe that they wanted me back because I represented the possibilities that exist when you reach for your potential, for the stars, for your passions, and for your life.
Signing autographs after the talk:
I have been confirmed! What I have done over the past 11 months has been positive, and I could see it today in the wide eyes and over-the-top cheers of the Dalhart kids. At a point during my talk, I stopped to ask, “are there any brave souls who will stand up and share their dreams or passions?” At first the crowd was silent for a few seconds, then one girl raised her hand and said, “I want to do missionary work in South Africa, and then build a school there.” Then another, “I love people, I want to help people in some way.” Then it was like a snowball effect. The hands were multiplying! Everyone wanted to share! More than 20 students were able to share, ranging from wanting to open up a whale and dolphin conservatory, to being a pediatrician, to even building a human-sized hamster wheel and running across the ocean! It’s amazing what will happen when you share your dreams with the world, and when you ask someone what they are. It’s almost like then the stars will align, along with your hard work and tears, to lead you to where you want to be.
I still have this feeling that more people need to know what’s happening here. Our country needs to hear this message and see how it is affecting people. I wish everyone could have experienced what happened in the Jr. High gym today. The world is rockin’ to the beat of this tune, and like what happened in Dalhart, more more more people need to join the rock party.
P.S. I was also honored to speak to the Hartley Jr. and Sr. High girls today! Same thing - they were excited to have me back! Seeing nods in the audience from these girls when I was talking about building your own expectations, going for your life, breaking the norm, was a gift. They really do understand. I feel so grateful to have been a part of these girls’ lives. It is beyond special. I am speechless.
Me and the Jr.
Me and the Sr. Hartley Girls!