“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I gave Harold eight Spongebob stickers for winning the Spelling Bee, all outlined in gold. He clutched them tightly in his small, chubby fingers.

The rest of the fourth graders had placed their own stickers everywhere — their lunch boxes, their pencil cases, their faces. But Harold just sat there quietly, holding and admiring them as if they were real gold.

“Don’t you want to put your stickers somewhere special?” I asked.

He shook his head then looked up at me with wide, twinkling eyes. “I’ll take them home and share them with my sister. Then we’ll go to McDonalds to celebrate.”

That was the first summer I spent teaching, at a small public school in Manila called Oranbo Elementary School. I was 16.

More than ten years later, I still think about Harold, about that humid classroom where 60 children shared 20 textbooks and 15 benches, and about the power of tiny moments and simple joys. In Harold’s simple statement, I found a lasting reminder: every moment, no matter how small, holds infinite meaning.

Since then, I have made it my life’s work to evoke this same magic in every student’s eyes – a magic born out of hope, pride, and joy. In turn, my students always manage to remind me what matters most.

This gift is more precious than gold.

— Michi Ferreol