I don’t know how important preschool is to most people – in fact, most people might not even remember their preschool years. But my preschool, Family Partner, left several lasting impressions on me. It was recently their anniversary (20th or 25th?), and they had asked us to write a testimony about how Family Partner influenced us. I thought about it, and I realized that maybe one of the most important lessons I had learned in this lifetime, I had learned during my stay there – something that I kept coming back to more and more as I found my place in the world.
Some of my earliest memories are of Family Partner, and though I only stayed there for a short period of my twenty-one years on earth, I still remember those memories fondly. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the forest green gate and mint walls that greeted me every day. I won’t forget the grey sand in the box and the yellow playhouse. And the murals on the walls – especially that tall bunny. I still remember the easel they taught us the alphabet and how to read clocks on. I still remember the stairs going up to the reading area, and the carpet I’d roll around with a ragdoll on. I remember “reading” Adarna books – really just looking at the pictures – upstairs, or playing with the wooden puzzles in the classroom while waiting to be picked up. I loved that, honestly.
Family Partner was where I first learned about fractions, and also how to make my own blue modeling clay. But I think some of the most important things I learned there were things that I am only realizing now were imprinted on me by Family Partner. I learned the basic stuff, like sharing and taking turns. I learned how to clean up after myself once snacks were over, or when hands needed to be washed after play. And there is one particular memory that I somehow always keep coming back to whenever I feel hesitant about taking an opportunity.
We were doing a nativity skit for Christmas, and I had been chosen to play the role of Mary. As a child, I enjoyed the limelight. But I had always just been a very bibo sheep, or a very loud, expressive member of the choir. Those were always background characters – I had never played the lead in anything. It was the first time I felt the pressure of carrying a performance. I shied away. I felt unworthy. When I told Teacher Linda about the predicament, she at first encouraged me, but I still felt unconfident. So she told me, “If you really don’t want to do it, we can give the role to someone else, you know.”
I stared at her, shocked. It had never occurred to me that the role could be given to someone else. I can’t remember what happened next – not even if I eventually ended up playing Mary. But it was at that moment that I realized that what has been given to me can also be taken away if I do not rise to the occasion. A chance to shine is exactly that – a chance, a gift. It’s not something that can only be mine; there will be others who would be happy to have the same opportunity to do well.
As I grew up and reflected on that moment more, I realized that it matters less whether or not I am deserving of an opportunity, but rather that I step up to its corresponding expectations. The person given an opportunity could be anyone – it wasn’t restricted to just an outspoken, playful little girl, or a shy, timid one. It matters more who one becomes and is in the role that they are given. It matters more that one does her best, and that one works in excellence.
This notion is one that has come back to me more often in recent years – when I accepted a leadership position in my church, when I ran for a position in my college org, and when I applied for a scholarship abroad. It’s tempting not to call attention to oneself, to not push against the track that most of my peers follow. I wouldn’t want to appear greedy, and I don’t want to make others feel bad because of the advantages I know I have at my disposal. Furthermore, those same privileges have often made me wonder if I’ve worked hard enough to be deserving of certain opportunities. But I understand now that a grateful heart is not one that passes off opportunities. It is one that makes the most out of everything one has been given. Besides – opportunities aren’t about oneself. In the same way that playing Mary all those Christmases back would have been for the greater glory of God, every opportunity we are given are opportunities to serve God and people. Opportunities aren’t about getting ahead – they are about developing or positioning oneself so that one can multiply opportunities for others. I now believe that passing off those opportunities is almost the same as passing off the responsibility and joy to do good.
A lot of things have changed since my school days in Family Partner. I’ve experienced so much over the course of my life, and there have been many new beginnings and graduations at Family Partner. Still, my family and I maintain a close relationship with the school and Teacher Leclec and Teacher Linda, a relationship that I hope only continues to strengthen. I am grateful for the jumpstart they gave me in life, for the sweet childhood memories, but most importantly, I am thankful for the life lesson on stepping up that I am blessed to have to draw on whenever the horizon calls.