At New River Community College, we found our name tags and sat down at the assigned place, beginning formal introductions which befit the linen tablecloths and napkins meticulously displayed in front of us. You know, “What’s your name?” and “Where are you from?” Since this was a banquet in honor of scholarship recipients, the conversation shifted quickly to school topics, like “What are you studying?”
After these appetizer questions, the very kind and gracious donor who sat at our table asked innocently, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” A fair question, I think, and ubiquitous at such an event as salad forks and coffee saucers. Yet, this donor followed up this standard fare with a question to really sink one’s teeth into: “And why?” A small but calorie-packed question if I’ve ever heard one. One-by-one, the students dug right in:
I want to be a nurse in a rehab, so I can help people get better one step at a time.
I want to be a concert violinist, so I can share my love of music with others.
I want to be a Calculus professor. (We looked at him incredulously.) Because, you know, calculus is awesome!
I want to own a business or at least be in charge. You know, the guy in the expensive suit, because I want to make all the important decisions.
Though very different, each answer reflected a great deal of ambition. You could see it on their faces. After all, these students were being recognized for their excellence. We turned our attention to the lone recipient at our table who had not yet spoken.
He spoke calmly and clearly. I don’t know.
Shrugging, he added as an after thought: And, for now, I’m okay with that.
My dear friend of blessed memory, whose had personally funded several of these scholarships and whose family I was humbly representing, was quoted by a dear friend at the end of the banquet, saying that the gift of education was to learn to ask questions and find the answers in the right way. And I think he would have been proud that we were feasting together.