It has been said that listening is the highest form of love. To truly listen with intention and hear what someone is saying is an art, a true gift. Attentive listening makes the speaker feel so seen, cared about, heard, and loved.
Each of us can think of at least one person in our lives who always takes the time to truly listen. For me, one such person is my dear friend MJ who lives in California. MJ is one of my longest and dearest friends and she always takes the time to listen.
After the holidays, I wanted to take some time and carefully read and re-read the letters from our Reaching Higher Graduates to listen to what they took away from their Reaching Higher journey. As I read these letters, my heart ached for what our youth are facing, and I thanked God for giving me the opportunity to be part of their lives. A resounding theme throughout these letters was that our Instructors and mentors were there to listen. It has been said that where there is great love, there are always miracles. Let me share with you the miracles and hearts of our students:
I was a nervous wreck when I came here the first time. My grades were low and I was spending so much time trying to make others happy, I wasn’t happy myself. After the first 2 sessions, I realized something. This isn’t just a leadership course, it’s a battery. Coming to this class fills me with energy I need to continue being nice to people. I am now getting straight A’s and I am convinced that Reaching Higher is the cause.
Hello! Before Reaching Higher everyday was a struggle. I do not tell many people this, but I have depression. School was falling apart, my friends were in very bad places mentally and I had to constantly talk them out of suicide. On top of all those things, I felt unwanted, unimportant, unmotivated, and it was hard for me to connect with my family, as I have become withdrawn and isolated in my own house. Since joining Reaching Higher I feel I have become one step closer to recognizing the light at the end of the tunnel. In an environment in which I felt like I was just a number to all of my teachers, Reaching Higher made me feel like a gift.
You first met me as a scared girl with very low self-esteem, hobbling through life as a tenth grader. I was lost and unsure, with only a 4.0 to hide behind. I had a past largely unknown by my peers, one of self-hatred and suicide contemplation. Overall I was blind to the person I really am, and clueless as to who I want to become. I now know who I am or at least more than I knew. Thanks to you I am smart, I am worthy, and I am lovable. I know these things and I believe them.
Dear Reaching Higher throughout the past 8 weeks, 16 hours of my life I have never gotten as much support as I have. All my life it has been, “you can’t do this, you can’t do that.” The minute I started to share what I wanted to accomplish the first word out of the mentor’s mouth were, “you’re going to do that.” I had never heard those words before other then in an anger tone. You helped me learn that to be more confident in what you say isn’t stuck up. You taught me that if I need help to ask for it. I’d love to do this, to watch kids thrive. As a student watching others find themselves in the most positive way was heartwarming. A giant circle of love and compassion.
Before Reaching Higher it was hard for me to recognize the positivity in my life. Every Sunday night while doing my homework, I dreaded the week. It is hard to remain positive on a Monday. When I began attending Reaching Higher I was very unsure. I am taking several difficult classes, and it would be hard to justify missing AP Biology, and AP Language classes just for this program. But after a few weeks, I realized that classes and grades and high school are serious, but short term. The life skills that we learned in Reaching Higher last a life time.
Our goal at Reaching Higher is to give our students a lifetime of hope with the skills we teach. The need is great. Reaching Higher is but one answer to the ever growing stress-filled world our children face daily.
I challenge each of you that is reading this to do more. Take a day and spend it with your child. Call it a “well” day. Stop the busyness of your life to call someone you love. Take a moment to listen to see “God love”; it isn’t about religion, it’s about Love. Go out into your day with one conviction: to live and watch miracles unfold. That is what we do in Reaching Higher; we share and listen to love and watch the miracles that transpire.
My deepest thanks to all of you that make our outreach possible and help us to strive to achieve our goals to love more, be more, and do more.