It was nearly 3 years ago when Alex Brown, a senior at Seagraves High school, was killed on her way to school. She had been texting and driving. "This is happening so quickly, so suddenly, so unexpectedly." Those were the words of Joel Haragan as he walked to the gym to share the news with everyone at the school. There wasn't a dry eye in the gym. He told the group, "Everybody wants to know why this happened."
There were questions like that today for Joel Haragan as he walked with a cane into another high school. No longer a principal, he came to class at Lorenzo High School as a special guest. "You get in it because of the kids and when you get out, you miss the kids. But I'm back", he said excitedly.
"Tuesdays with Morrie" is a best selling book that became a movie. It is the true account of a young sports writer who took notes during the last 15 Tuesdays he spent with a favorite teacher, who was dying of ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease.
After studying the book , Kinsey Kinard's entire class at Lorenzo High wore t-shirts in support of Joel Haragan as he entered this class Tuesday morning. Joel, also an educator, came to share his life lesions after having been diagnosed with ALS three months ago. "We've got cake, too!" Ms. Kinard announced to Joel and the class as he put on the t-shirt ordered for him as well. On the back, it said TEAM JOEL in big letters. The front said "A Tuesday with Joel: Hope Faith Cure".
In a scene from "Tuesdays with Morrie", Morrie tells the writer, "Know anything about this disease? I've got ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease. It melts you like a candle." Joel understands that. He told the class that in his stage of the disease, "Right now, for the most part. It's in my lower torso. It's in my legs." But this was not a class about sadness. Instead, it was about appreciating life… and weathering the storms. "My storm is ALS. But I'm talking to people right now with storms in their lives. And how we handle those storms and what we do with those storms makes a difference."
The class could see that just getting up from a chair takes some effort now for Joel. But he stood when he asked the class to share their questions, just as the sports writer had quizzed Morrie in the movie. One student asked, "Are you Scared?" " You better believe it," he answered.
It was an hour of honesty and real life lessons on the value of living life to its fullest. "Have you considered taking the easy way out - suicide?," another student asked. Joel told them, "You're right. That would be the easy way out. But what if Morrie hadn't gone through with it? A lot of lives have been touched because of that book."
And how many more lives will be touched as Joel Haragan continues to teach the lessons of this book? In the movie, Morrie says, "I'm a lucky man. I still got time to teach my final course." When the sports writer asks "About dying?" He laughs, "No, about living!"
After this first "Tuesday with Joel" the class at Lorenzo High took pictures with their special guest. Then, they surprised him with a personal letter from each student. Almost every student, even the tough guys, sneaked in a hug from this giant 6'7" role model. Watching Joel Haragan accept all those letters and hugs from kids who cared, you could see it was medicine for the soul.
Special note: If you are looking for a speaker for your classroom or organization, Joel Haragan would like to spend many more Tuesdays sharing his story of faith and his positive outlook on life. He can be reached at (806)928-6923 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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