My memory was of first grade at Catholic School and reading aloud from our readers. Learning to read did not come easily to me at first, though I quickly came to love it. Reading was a challenge, as I was slightly dyslexic and very shy, so reading aloud was difficult. My teacher, Sister Mary of the Divine Heart, was pretty strict and demanded perfection. We were expected to volunteer to read or she would call on us. We were awarded gold stars for our performance, that were put in neat rows in the front of our book. The best reader for the day was selected to put the stars in the books and it was an honor to be chosen. It was a big deal and I wanted more than anything to have those gold stars and be the person to put them in the books, but I was too afraid to volunteer. One day I was chosen to read and finally picked to put the stars in the books! I was so excited! Perhaps, I was overexcited or something got out of hand and I got a little carried away with the stars. I not only put a star in my book and everyone else’s book, as I was supposed to do, but I put lots of stars in my book and everyone else’s. Everyone seemed very happy with the extra stars and so was I. I still remember the proud and beaming little faces and I remember looking at those neat little rows of stars and feeling proud, confident and well, a kind of satisfaction that I can’t describe. It was simply empowering!
When I went home that night, my Mom noticed all the extra stars and after some coaxing, I was forced to tell her about getting carried away and putting more stars than I was supposed to in my book and everyone’s books. She seemed to understand, but insisted that I tell Sister Mary the first thing the next morning. My Mom told me that the gold stars were nice, but that I should know that I was reading my very best, whether I got a gold star or not and that I should read well enough every day to deserve all those gold stars! I promised her and myself that I would. When I told Sister Mary what I had done, she was not happy and told me that I would never again get to give out the stars. I had to stay after school for several days and write my name on the board, which was a punishment, kind of a "shame" listing. Strangely, this did not deter my determination to prove that I deserved all those gold stars and from then on, I volunteered to read every day and knew that I read very well. I noticed also the smiles from everyone when I read and that they too seemed to read with more confidence. I always wondered If they were earning their star too, and if Sister Mary noticed the special "magic'" that those gold stars seemed to have! Yes, I knew that I had been wrong in not following directions and getting carried away with the stars, but I blamed it on the "magic" of those shiny gold stars to inspire my courage. Going forward gold stars have always had that effect on me and so, with Shiny's star on my right hand, it was with courage and confidence that I gave my presentation at the National Personal Development Symposium. Although, I told the group at my table my story, no one else in the room knew of the magic power those tiny shiny stars held! I hope that the next time you face a challenge you have your own gold stars or other “magic” to help you along!