I’ll be leaving my mark like initials carved in an old oak tree… you wait and see.

I Was Here by Lady Antebellum

“I wanna do something that matters, say something different, something that sets the whole world on its ear. I wanna do something better with the time I’ve been given. I wanna try to touch a few hearts in this life. Leave nothing less, than something that says… I was here.”

I’ve always held an affinity for this song, but after this weekend I feel like these lyrics should float around the top of my head as I walk.

I had the opportunity to meet some amazing kids this weekend, and not just any kids, the best of the best kids from high schools all across the state of Alabama. I was asked to be a group counselor at the Alabama Youth Leadership Programs’ 2011 Leadership Conference at Jacksonville State University by a friend I met last year at a similar conference. (There’s the first networking link right there!)

We drove up on Thursday evening with a fraternity brother of his and arrived just in time for dinner. By the way, if you’re ever in Jacksonville, AL, and are hungry… Jefferson’s has some of the best wings you could imagine! But I digress… After the first night of introductory type information we settled in-ready for the kids to get there on Friday. Boy, was I in for a treat!

Friday and Saturday were a whirlwind of fun and learning! My kids got to know each other and really bonded over the weekend. I even heard them mention on Saturday night how crazy it was that just the morning before they had been so uncomfortable being thrown into group activity right off the bat not knowing each other and that it had been such an awkward experience! When Sunday rolled around, everyone was dressed to their tip top and we had the chance to spend the day together, preparing for the banquet and really getting to know each other even deeper.

As I sat at the table on Sunday and listened to my kids talk about their home lives, divorced families, little brothers and sisters, school, hometowns and even how some of their parents didn’t show up for the event, I realized what these kids meant to me. These weren’t just any kids- here before me sat 7 teenagers who I had had the opportunity to influence in the last 3 days. Had I done my job? What were they going to take back home with them after this weekend?

Because I still feel so young and impressionable myself, I often forget that there are those younger than I who seek direction in my actions and the actions of those I surround myself with. Right then and there I hit my “teacher moment” again. This is where I’m supposed to be with my life. When I get busy with my own school and friends and hanging out and what not… I forget what it is that I’m striving for.

I want to make a difference. I want to impact a child’s life. I want to help kids who want to better their lives through college, leadership and/or volunteerism. I want to see a child succeed! And here these kids sat and didn’t know what they had done for ME over the course of the last few days. What a blessing they were to me and will continue to be as I strive to help others just like them.

This is what I want to do with the time I’ve been given.

“If you think I’m all talk, then you’re in for a shock ’cause this dreams too strong…”

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