I was in fifth grade, I think, when our music teacher announced she was moving on to a new school or a new town or getting married, or something. She was a good-hearted teacher who brought instruments into the classroom and sang the songs of the seventies while we tapped on wooden dowels and clanged tiny cymbals together.

Once, she asked us to write a story based on the song, Seasons in the Sun, by Terry Jacks. Most of us wrote stories about someone who was dying and wished he could have more time with his family and friends, but the cool guy made up a story about how it was all just a joke and nobody was dying and it made all of us laugh, except the music teacher. She was angry and hurt, but at the time we were all, Relax, lady. He’s just having some fun.

Because he was cool, you know, so his disrespectful story was, too.

Anyway, the teacher was leaving and one of the girls in the class – a not very popular, kind of geeky girl – suggested we have a farewell party for her. The geeky girl suggested we put on a little talent show, and sing or play instruments or read poetry for our music teacher, and at first everyone laughed and made fun of the idea. Not because of the idea, but because of who was offering it.

Then the cool guy stood up and said, I think we should. Why not? It will be fun.

And all of a sudden, it seemed like it would be. Just like that, we were all on board and excited and falling over each other with ideas of things we could do.

I’ve thought of this from time to time over the years. I was only eleven or twelve years old, but I think I learned then and there that being cool and popular would take you places.

I spent a lot of my growing up years trying to be those things, and when I realized I wasn’t, really, I at least tried to hang out with the people who were.

I thought I’d matured and that I wasn’t so shallow, but recently I’ve wondered if I’m still a lazy follower a lot of the time. Without realizing it, I join my heart to others because some cool guy says I should, you know?

It’s hard to sift through all the different subjects on all the different tables these days. It’s easier to believe what the cool guy (popular podcaster, blogger, preacher, etc.) says, rather than figure things out for myself. But of all the table offerings and all the sharing of what others say would taste best, I think I’d still rather choose my own meal.

I hope I’m teaching my children this, too. I hope they are learning it sooner than did I. That cool is overrated, and that to be honest and true and humble and open and seeking and learning and trying and trying again… these are what make great lives.