One year at Kent Academy in Nigeria, we were planning a musical based on the story of David and Goliath. As we were casting roles for the performance, I approached one of our Nigerian students and encouraged him to audition. David—as his name just happened to be—was small in stature, quiet and often stayed in the background when among his peers. However, I saw something in him that his classmates—and even he—did not. I saw a giant.
“David, I think you have it in you to be Goliath,” I said.
“I don’t think so,” he laughed in reply.
“You don’t have to be great at it. Just try out and have fun with it,” I said.
Reluctantly, young David showed up to audition…for Goliath. He was last in line behind several other students seeking the part. A fellow teacher and I sat in the back of the auditorium, eagerly waiting for David’s turn. It was time. He stepped onto the stage, and as the song began to play, David stood up as tall as he could and belted out the words, “Who will dare accept my challenge?” At that very moment, I saw this small, timid Nigerian boy transformed before my very eyes.
I’ll never forget the reaction of those in the room that evening. It was like, “Whoa, where did that come from?” And they all stood up and cheered, clapping for the giant that emerged before them—one they had never noticed before. It was settled, David would be our Goliath.
From my 38 years of service as a music teacher in Nigeria, stories like David’s are my favorite ones to share. They showcase what I think teachers do best: quietly work to know their students, meeting them where they are and helping them unlock what’s inside. I love that I was able to help David believe that he could be somebody he didn’t think he was. I think that’s what God calls us to do as teachers—and Christians—to just watch carefully, always looking to see where we can spread a little bit of fertilizer in someone’s life. The David that stepped onto the stage that evening was a young Nigerian student who didn’t think he had anything going for himself. But that’s not who stepped off the stage.
David and I still keep in touch all these years later. I’ll write to him on Facebook, and in his replies, he’ll sometimes remind me of the imprint I was able to make on his life. “You believed in me,” he says.