This is an essay I wrote for my students. At the end of each year, I printed it out onto card stock bookmarks and gave them to my classes on the last day of school.
“I love you. Drive carefully.” These are the words etched on a cheap key ring that my Granny put into my Christmas stocking more than 20 years ago. It was one of those $1.99 bargains that can be purchased from cheap mail-order catalogs. At 16, I thought it was corny and probably rolled my eyes, but I dutifully attached it to my key ring. Years went by, and it somehow made its way into the kitchen junk drawer.
A few years after my grandmother died, I was rifling through that kitchen drawer when I came across the now-broken key ring. Now, having young people in my life that I care about, I realized the enormity of the statement. I love you. Drive carefully.
It wasn’t a reminder to use my turn signals or to stay one car length for every 10 miles per hour. It wasn’t just about driving. It was a plea: “Please be safe. I love you, and I cannot bear for anything to happen to you. Yes, live your life. You are growing up and behind the wheel now. I cannot always be there to protect you. So, please be careful. You are precious to me.”
I took that key ring and put it on a ribbon. I hang it on my rear view mirror now as a reminder to me that the way I live my life has an effect on others. Just because I am not feeling overly careful one day, it does not give me the right to be foolish with my life. There are others who care about me, need me, and would be hurt deeply if I were hurt or hurt others. Every now and then, I look at that key ring and smile. It is a constant reminder.
The school year has ended, and you are now leaving my little classroom. However, know that as you go, you have left someone whom you have touched with your life – someone who cares very much about you. Your face and smile tug on my heartstrings. I want you to lead a happy, healthy, and successful life. I want you to have all the wonderful things you dream of.
But, unfortunately, sometimes we make rash and foolish decisions. We choose to follow those who do not have our best interests at heart. We get mad and roar away in a car. We choose what is easy — rather than what is right. And we pay for those moments with our futures — and sometimes our lives.
As you leave here today, please remember:
I love you. Drive carefully.