She blended right in with the throng of cheering fans. She jumped up to cheer final winning shot by the star of her former high school’s basketball team. But as Victoria walked out the gym door, I saw seriousness rather than celebration on her face.

“How are you, Victoria?” I asked.

“I’m stressed.”

“What’s up?”

“I’m behind in paying for my classes.”  Victoria attended a local community college.

“That’s gotta be tough,” I paused.

“But I don’t think I’m going back to school anyway,” she said. Victoria went on to explain. “It’s the things people say.”

“Like what?”

“One of the other students asked me if I knew how to ‘do cocaine.’ ‘Why would I know how to do cocaine?’ I asked him. ‘Because that’s what Mexicans do, isn’t it?’”

She went on.

“I decided to be brave in my sociology class and tell my story about coming to the United States when I was six years old. About how my family got deported. I got extra credit for it,” she added with a flash of pride.

“I took questions after my presentation. It got bad. One girl said, ‘So if I called ICE right now, they could come and get you?’” Victoria decided at that point it was time to stop taking questions.

I shuddered inside, recalling that day’s headline of more children being torn from their families during ICE raids. Her giant dark eyes intensified. “Going to school is my American dream,” she implored.

The lawyer in me asked some questions. “We don’t have any money for a lawyer,” she said. I gave her the number for the local immigrant legal center, encouraging her to call.

A single question. A single remark. A single moment of listening.

We can crush a dream, inspire a dream, or give hope to a dream with a handful of words.

Victoria inspired me to keep listening. To keep asking better questions. And to remember that everyone you meet is carrying that great unseen burden. Even as they cheer on their favorite team.

Coach Koenig

Are you allowing anyone’s words to crush your dream?

Who might need your listening ear today?

Are you willing to be brave, tell your story, and hold on to your dream?

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