As a graduation requirement, every eighth-grader prepares a 25-minute keynote about a character quality of his or her choice.
“Humility is a challenge for me…in things like competitive sports or even academics it is hard for me to keep calm and to hold myself back. Starting today I’m going to change and fix my actions.” He began by reading Japhet School’s full definition of humility and its six action statements. Then focused on the first action statement: “Be modest rather than boastful when I have excelled.”
Next he read a book aloud to the audience, The Tower written by Richard Paul Evans and illustrated by Jonathan Linton. In the story, a man wished to be great — the greatest man in all the village. He believed that in order for him to be great, all others must see him in a high place. He built himself a tower that rose above the entire village, and he sat there alone. He was very proud to be the greatest man. A bird visited him and questioned the man’s judgment. The bird told the man about a woman in the village who was greater than he was. Stupefied, the man visited the woman. The woman told the man that she pitied him, for he must be very lonely on his tower.
“Being seen and being great are not the same thing,” she said. “To be great is not to be seen by, but to truly see, others. To be great is not to be higher than another, but to lift another higher.”
Hearing these words, the man returned to his village. He came upon a little boy sitting alone in a tree who said he chose to sit above his friends rather than play with them. Seeing the bad example he was setting, the man destroyed his tower. He shared his wood with the village. The villagers begin to see the greatness inside the man.
Our eighth-grade student then related humility to his own story — his challenge to be a more humble person, specifically in regards to playing baseball. When he first began playing on a travel team, he says he was “one of the worst. I would get laughed at and made fun of because they didn’t think I was good enough for them … I just wasn’t good enough to slack off or boast.” He learned from his coach that he wasn’t chosen for his talent, but for his heart and effort. “That is what has made the difference throughout my baseball career. When my teammates would strike out they would cry or throw their bat, but I never did that. I knew I had to focus on the next play or I couldn’t be successful.”
He concluded with this quote from Rick Warren: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”
© Japhet School 2020