To preserve his identity and privacy, let's call my friend 'Nihaal'. I always knew there was something different about Nihaal. He was special in a way that no other person I knew was. He was perpetually broke, but more benevolent than my friends who were well off. He was busy as a bee, but still made time to teach lesser privileged children. He was often saddened by the materialistic thinking of the corporate world, but he never lost his cool or drive to stay simple. After a few months in a regular paying job, he quit the corporate world forever and started teaching full time.
His positive attitude was infectious. He entirely transformed the class of Muslim students he taught. The boys and girls would sit separately in the first few months; students would hit each other and start fights in the middle of a lesson; their math and English was really weak; and they had no exposure to any extracurricular activity. By the end of two years, the students started behaving more maturely, girls and boys sat together, they started dreaming and aiming big, they sang songs in English and discovered they could paint and sculpt.
All of this did not happen overnight. Nihaal worked harder than he had ever done. He introduced roleplays, videos and excursions into the daily routine of those kids. He inspired them. And of course, he inspired me, and many fortunate people who have known him over the years. He recently told me he had been offered admission to Harvard. That was his ultimate dream. I cannot tell you how proud I feel to have known such a wonderful soul. He proved to all of us that it pays to listen to your heart.
His story deserves to be told because he not only makes those children happy, but all of the people he comes to interact with. He has a way of making people feel at ease. He can counsel his friends and always makes time to stay in touch with all. But I'll tell you a secret - he is an introvert! Despite his predisposition to avoid people, he has pleasantly affected and inspired hundreds.