So from the kids to the parents to the staff to my own secretary, we are all still glowing from the honesty, class and courage that you two brought with to our town this past week. I will cut to the chase and just say up front--you two and your family are welcome in our schools anytime for any reason--you are part of our family now (like it or not--that's how families go, right?).
I have to tell you--the layers of what areas of being a person that you all hit, from anxiety, regret, loss, the love with baggage we have for our families (especially men and their dads), our accountability to one another--it is almost overwhelming. Our beliefs in a higher power inform a great deal about who we are and how we operate. One of the many things I know for sure based on the beliefs I hold, is that many wrongs can somehow, miraculously work through to some amazingly powerful rights. Your marriage and the message you share so effectively is proof of this--and an inspiration to many.
Chris, you hit some of our big, seemingly tough boys in the gut with your talk.
This is an old-school town where the men are men and they work, play and suck it up during tough times. Getting help, admitting weakness--whatever--are not always a part of that picture. One of the messages I have spent a decade plus as a principal and superintendent working to get across is that there is such a thing as manliness--and it is vital to our homes and our society. Manliness is taking care of yourself, your family and your friends when they need it. Manliness is about not making excuses and being accountable to yourself and others. Manliness is about looking toward what is best for all, not just for you. Manliness is about being a gentleman who respects and shows respect to those around them. Manliness is about being brave enough to admit to yourself when you are in too deep, and you need some help yourself. Manliness is about paying that help forward to others in need. You did as much in 30 minutes of sharing deep stuff as I have done in 11 years--thank you for this. I get to model this stuff everyday for our young men--but your story grabs them in a way that no one else's can.
I hope you realize that your story, your honesty, and the man you are--these are gifts you have been blessed with. And, you are man enough to share it. You may have anxiety and doubt, but you are filled with gifts and talents that make your athletic talent pale in comparison. When you talk about your "one-last-dream-game" being back in NA, rather the Superdome, or Gillette, or Alumni Stadium...that grabbed kids in this town (it grabbed a few grown ups too).
The fact that you wouldn't go back if you could to what would appear to all of us as your "glory days" gives us all something to think about in terms of life priorities, and what really, really matters as we journey through life. Our glory days are when we are with people we love doing things that make the world better.
I did not intend this to be a fan letter to Chris. Kathi, I hope you heard from me this week that as someone who has learned and led in three states over two decades, you are off the charts for courage, conviction and dedication to your children, and to everyone else's children. Chris, I hope that you hear that in spite of what you may feel, you have heart, soul, discipline and courage that are remarkable. But you also have a gift for connecting in ways that would make most professional presenters jealous. You are the real deal in a hundred positive ways, and I am grateful that you both came to Lee. Both of you pass the toughest test that the toughest crowd (teenagers) can throw at you--the BS test. Kids have radar for ferreting out an ounce of phoniness--you all had them from the second they were greeted and walked in the door. You are both powerful people presenting a powerful message.
Be well and God bless.
Jake - Superintendent Lee Public Schools.
A mesage from Jill- a grateful parent
I don't even know how to begin my message to you. On November 15th 2009 my 15 year old son James was rushed to the hospital, passed out on the side of the road with a blood alcohol level of .308. Twenty minutes later I was at his side at the hospital when his lungs begain to fail and they put a tube down his throat, attached my son to a respirator where he remained in ICU for the next 20 hours. I thank you and Taylor for helping my son.
James friends were unable to keep him walking and moving, they panicked when they were kicked out of a party and James was lying on the road but 2 friends stayed with James, took his phone and called me and they told me later that night, they stayed with my son because they remembered what you said when you spoke at Walpole High- not to leave your friend behind, have each other's back. If it weren't for your story and how you reached those 15 year old boys, I have no doubt my son would be dead- the boys were going to leave him for fear of getting in trouble with police but your story was in their heads. I want to thank you from all of my heart Kathi, I thought I was losing my son a few times that night, I am beyond grateful that he is here and I cannot express how much gratitude I have for you and your powerful message. Please know that Taylor and her story are the reason my son is alive today. I can only hope that will over you some comfort, Please know that our kids are hearing you, you are making a difference and you have changed my life and Jame's life forever..
Lesson Heard Loud and Clear- From a Student
Today, you visited my school, and I think I speak for everyone that was in the room when I say that you left me speechless. I want to begin and say thank you for your great courage and honesty when speaking to my friends and me, because in those words you changed my way of thinking.
When you introduced Taylor, I was staring at pictures of a beautiful girl and happy student, much like many of my friends. However, when you asked us to begin to picture ourselves as this beautiful girl, I immediately got chills. I pictured my mother standing in the place you were, a beautiful and strong woman much like yourself. I was then overwhelmed with tears. Seeing those pictures of Taylor, and thinking about her story you shared.. How could something so unthinkable happen? How could one bad night decide the fate of a young girl only a year or so older than myself? I am the youngest in my family and family is the most important thing in the world to me.
Everything I do in my life , I hope to be able to dedicate to them someday, as well as my mother. My mother and I tell each other everything, and rely on each other for everything. Her strength and wisdom never ceases to make me into a stronger person, as I'm sure yours influenced Tay. Trying to put myself in Tay's shoes, I don't think I could muster the courage to ever call my mother in the same state as Tay's. When you described Tay as a fighter, a strong girl who could pull herself through anything, I could again relate. However, after experiencing only the narrative of Taylor's horrible night, and seeing the true affect of your loss, I now know in my heart that making that one call will never just be an option. It will always be the answer. I am so honored to have heard your story, and it has truly shaped my life forever. The ever- present love between you and Tay is one that will love on forever, as well as change lives forever.
Speaking for myself, the love between you two will inspire and affect my life for years to come. Thank You Mrs Meyer Sullivan for teaching me a lesson no one else in the world ever has, the true unbreakable love between a mother and daughter, and just how fragile life can be.
I turned the Car Around- From a Student
A couple of weeks ago you talked at my school about your daughter Taylor. They talk really hit me, and I wanted to tell you that I didn't forget about it. See, it's hard for me to say this, but I was going to a huge party, lots of alcohol. I wasn't thinking, you know, being a teenage. I pulled up to the house and thought of you and Taylor, seeing her picture there on the state and knowing that you were not physically with her killed me. I thought of my parents being up on that stage and it brought me to tears. I am thought to be a man, and you know men don't cry a lot, or at least not in public with their friends. But I cried in that car, and it wasn't just a couple of tears, I was sobbing. And I honesty think you could have saved my life that night. Because I turned around and drove home. I don't know what would have happened if I went to that party, But all I know is I just owe you a big thank you for everything. Alex.
Want to host Taylor's Message?
Taylor's Message has been shared with tens of thousands of students and adults. Audiences include middle school and high school students, groups of educators, community coalitions and parents. Interested in finding out more about bringing Taylor's Message to your school or community? Click the button!