Almost nineteen years ago, I spent one precious, sleepless night holding our firstborn baby girl all night long, thanking God for the blessing He had given to me and my wife. That night changed me forever! It’s funny how something… someone so small can instantly become such a big part of one’s life! I refused to let her go, even for a second, for as long as I could stay awake. And as she slept peacefully in my arms, I watched her.
I watched as this little girl, all too quickly, grew into a toddler, with wide eyes, a quick smile, and a heart for others. And all too soon, she was off to school! She was the “Nurse Nancy” on the kindergarten playground, rushing to take care of anyone with the smallest cut, scrape, or bruise. Her greatest joy seemed to be in helping others.
I watched as she struggled with bruises to her own heart. She saw the best in everyone, even when they weren’t the best to her. And when life left her battered and beaten, she refused to settle for the temporary satisfaction of returning insult for insult, injury for injury. Instead, she set her eyes on the person she wanted to be, and stayed true to herself.
I watched as she entered high school… as she hesitantly walked in to my own alma mater, uncertain of herself, only to emerge four years later as a confident, capable leader who had left a lasting imprint on her school. I watched as other students found something inside of her that made her worthy of being followed, and I watched as she struggled to balance the responsibility and rights of leadership. She set her goals high, and with a commitment to excellence, she attained practically all of what she set before herself.
I watched as she wrestled with her dreams; as she realized that not all of the dreams of youth are meant to come true. Such dreams do not fade quietly away; yet I watched as, with just a bittersweet trace of regret, she allowed some of those dreams to slip through her open fingers in order to embrace a better reality.
Yesterday, we dropped this young woman off for her first semester as a college student. With that same brilliant smile, I watched as she greeted her new suite-mates, met other students who will share either part or all of the experiences of the next four years with her, and moved with ease among students, faculty and staff alike. So different from just four years ago!
As we left the campus, I couldn’t help but think about that first night. It seems impossible that the small, fragile newborn over whom I held vigil nineteen years ago has become this vibrant person, so full of life and energy, ready to take on any challenge life can throw at her!
She gave her little sister one last hug, helped her into the car, and with a wave, and of course, a smile, she walked away, back toward her future.
And I watched.