It started with a blank map. Knowing what I know now about my life and who I have become it is almost comical to think that an object as mundane as a map would have such a profound impact. Yet, as I think about history I can’t help but wonder how many souls of the ages were inspired by a single word, look or phrase. Heck, Sir Isaac Newton credits his theory of gravity to the observation of a falling apple. These seemingly simple agents of fate have served their purposes and ignited sparks that have changed the course of history. God works in mysterious ways, He speaks to our hearts in quiet whispers and sometimes uses insignificant objects like apples or maps to help us realize our purpose. When I walked into staples in 2001 as an unfocused adolescent I had no idea that on this common shopping trip I would receive my greatest inspiration. I entered aimlessly, but left with two items that would come to symbolize my life’s greatest ambition.
I had stumbled upon the map section of the store. I stood there just looking. Thinking. Tracing my fingers over the names of elusive countries and cities. Wondering what it would be like to journey across the ocean and visit some of those places. I thought of the people who did that…adventurers, explorers, brave, intelligent, smooth, knowledgeable, impressive, cool, beret wearing people. I had never met what I would call an international traveler before, but I was pretty sure they were not clumsy awkward 13-year-old girls from Crawfordsville Indiana.
Yet something inside me burned and in that moment I decided that I would become these things. I vowed to one day become that brave adventurer and I would indeed put my mark on the world. I would be a traveler. So, I picked out my favorite map and bought a package of golden star stickers, the kind that teachers put next to your name when you do something good. I had my plan. I would document my travels on this map, chronicle my territory, and cover the world with little golden stars. Stars that represented the accomplishment to my new found ambition. I would fill my map.
What started with a blank map did not stay that way. Currently I have 18 stickers on my World Map, that same map that my 13 year old self purchased all those years ago. The same map that currently resides on my classroom wall. I hang it there as a beacon of hope to my 13-year old students who might also feel as if the world is out of their reach. I tell them of my adventures and follies and how I too started with a blank map. We all start that way. I share my stories and my map with my students to inspire them to write their own stories and fill their own maps.