Today is one of those days that I want to pretend that the United States is one big jigsaw puzzle. I want to pick up the piece that is “Texas” and put it right next to the piece that is “North Carolina”.  Because today someone very special is graduating from high school and I want to be there. I would drive for days to be there…it is just that it would actually take days and the vacation schedule and life did not permit me to make that wonderful road trip. So instead, I am holding this day in such a special place in my heart because today a girl named Esther will walk across the stage to receive her diploma. She will shine like a beam of sunshine as she takes that piece of paper.  

The story of Esther’s high school career is an interesting one. For she has weathered a lot of real life during those 4 years of teenage awkward and hormonal turmoil. She has grown into a beautiful person inside and out, and it wasn’t easy.  

The past few weeks, I would get a text from her mother saying, “Oh, Corinne, you wouldn’t believe it, Esther won another award.”  The list kept growing – Choir Award, Journalist Award. Yesterday, it was the Headmaster Award. Now that one sounds so big I can hardly imagine what the categories would be to even qualify to be on the list.

As I responded with joy, celebration and applause from Texas, I asked her Mom, "Did you know she was going to win it?" Her response says it all..."Had no idea. But when he started describing her...such a humble person, always welcoming the new kids…always a huge smile..works so hard behind the scenes..I knew it was her."

You see this precious girl has been through the loss of her precious father in those treacherous years of high school. She watched him be sick for 2 years and then she lost him from her world. Her father, my brother, was just as the words were used to describe my sweet niece Esther as she was given one more award for the precious and tender soul that she is. For me to hear that she marched through that dark cloud of grief to come out on the other side and SHINE like she has is one of those stories that you could not write until you watched it. Knowing how hard it is to be a child that has lost a parent, her high school story was up for grabs.  

In 2012, we had no idea how to help her get through the grief. And she did it her way…she faced each day with her heart and used her pain to help others. She took those cracks in her heart and used them to reach out to others with compassion. She became a leader, she loved the new kids that came to her school when they were perfect strangers, she wrote for the school paper, she decided she was going to make the very best grades she could. Esther decided she was going to shine. And Shine she did.  

Character is something we are born with and we can choose how we share it with the outside world.  As I have been hearing all of the ways that Esther has touched the lives of students and teachers in her high school, she has touched me too. She reminds me what love and courage look like. She took what could have sunk her ship and instead decided to open up her world and bring more love. Just when you think a dark cloud is over you and your heart feels so heavy…try to do something that can make you shine.  

Keep facing each day, help others, smile and spread joy. Shine today!!! From the inside out.

Esther, I love you and when you get that diploma, know that you have graduated from so much more than high school already!

Cheers and hugs from Texas!

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