Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sympathy for Jennifer Hudson and her family

When you read this story, you won’t wonder why I’ve been remembering the fall of ’02.

I was teaching, as I did for years. A young woman missed the first class, but showed up for the second – not unusual in community college extension programs. As with each student, I asked her to tell us why she was taking the class and what she hoped to accomplish. She was, she explained, working in a beauty shop; the owner was interested in leaving the business and she was trying to decide if she could and should buy the operation from him.

It was probably the third class, her second evening with us, when we got to a unit on time management and personal discipline. She commanded the floor: “I know I am responsible for making my own success. We all are. And I am going to make something important out of my life. I owe that to myself and to my family.”

Teaching entrepreneurship, it was my responsibility to be encouraging, but also realistic. I studied this face which defied conventional beauty: a large back-sloping forehead and prominent mouth framed a small well-molded nose and dark, elegant almond eyes. Something confident and determined showed in her unusual but pretty face.

“Yes,” I said, “I believe you will.”

The next week she was not in class. I asked Steven, her classmate and friend, if he'd talked to her in the intervening week.

“Disney's holding auditions in the city. I think she was going to go try-out,” he offered.

Knowing only that she had experience in a beauty shop, I am sure I looked puzzled.

“Oh, you haven’t heard her sing. That girl has an amazing voice,” he explained.

In the coming weeks, I left messages for her, updates on assignments and adjustments in the class schedule, hoping she would return. Of course, she never did.

It was not until January, ‘07 that I saw her again. I’d seen that confidence and determination for myself. But in a Miami, FL movie theater, I watched Jennifer Hudson demonstrate what Steven had told me but I’d only half believed: that girl has an amazing voice!