touch your world

Originally written in TACKED THOUGHTS for The Freeman
by Nancy Unchuan Toledo

When I was in college, I joined a committee that once gave me the task of making guest speakers’ introductions. I would be handed someone’s resume and from there, I had to glean enough information that would be read by the emcee.

This would have been a piece of cake except that the resumes that were handed to me were pages and pages long filled with all sorts of achievements that I didn’t know where to begin. So, I learned to compromise and pick out the information that I found interesting. I’d namedrop a school if it was a school I knew. I’d throw in an award if it sounded prestigious. Then, I’d pepper the paragraph with little trivia that would (I thought) make the person memorable. And of course, I’d make sure that there was a title in there somewhere. At that time, I remember thinking that one day I wanted to have a resume as stellar as the ones I read, so that if by chance, I happened to get introduced, someone would have something memorable to say about me, too.

Now that I have grown older (and hopefully wiser), I find that resumes don’t really impress me much at all. What I do find impressive is when I meet someone who is very accomplished but doesn’t at all care about his accomplishments. I’ve met geniuses who are humble, millionaires who are simple. And powerful people who are gentle. People like these do not make the mistake of confusing what they have (whether it is intelligence, money, title or prestige) with who they are. By the world’s standards, they should be considered better then most men and women. But they never let you feel it. Probably because they never think about it that way. Of course, I’m only guessing since I’m neither a millionaire, a genius nor a prominent person.

That means my resume would definitely be far from stellar. No awards here. No fancy degrees from a fancy school. No interesting trivia that would make me memorable. No titles to impress anyone. So you can well imagine, that when I do get introduced to people, they just get the basics. My name gets attached to some position, degree, or school. Sometimes, it’s trivia that makes for a good five-minute round of small talk. My college self would have been miffed about this fact. My adult self, however, does not get affected at all. Well, except maybe, for one particular kind of introduction.

Even I must admit, that the one introduction that manages to fill me with pride is when any one of my former students introduces me to someone else and says: “This is Ms. Toledo. She is MY teacher.” Notice the emphasis on “my.” I’m not just talking about a casual Oh-yes-I-was-in-her-class kind of thing. I’m talking about the pride-in-voice-with-matching-grateful-look kind of introduction. And that just about makes my heart melt. It doesn’t happen often but when it does, I know that with this child, at least, I have made a difference. This one, at least, takes pride in my being his or her teacher as much as I take pride in having him or her as my student. And with this one, my choice to pursue a longer class list than a longer resume, is validated.

My 20-year-old self could not have understood what I realized when I became a grownup. And it is this: no matter how many degrees I earn (or do not earn), no matter how many responsibilities I hold (or do not hold), the ultimate measure of my success in my career is not how much I have achieved, earned or displayed, it’s how much I have loved and how much I have taught others to love. So if I get introduced as “Ms. Toledo” for the rest of my life, that will be just fine.

About Nancy Unchuan Toledo

When Nancy started teaching high school at age 21, she didn’t really think she’d make a career out of it. She was right. Ten years later and she realized teaching isn’t her career, it’s her passion. Writing is her passion, too, and she writes a bi-monthly column for the Freeman. Mostly she writes about her family, her friends, her students, her experiences in teaching, her love of books and her faith. Because those are the things that she cares about the most–although not necessarily in that order.

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