I first met Shane last semester when he enrolled in my freshman English class. Most students in that class know me as Dr. Griffiths, but not him. Because we share the same first name, Shane always called me simply “the other Shane.” In class, as students were meeting in groups, I’d hear him calling out “hey other Shane,” and I would turn to find him smiling away, pleased as could be that, to him, I would never be some stuffy “Dr. Griffiths.”
There was no disrespect. I’ve been thinking about him a lot these past few days, hearing his voice and seeing that bright smile—thinking about how even when he wasn’t smiling, you could see that contagious smile just underneath the surface, waiting for any excuse to break out and make everyone in the room smile with him.
Most people would have looked at the two of us and seen only our differences. Me: an Idaho white woman, too prone to be serious about abstract things like poetry and grammar. Him: a fine young man from Georgia who was more concerned with people than paper. But Shane didn’t stop at differences. What he saw was what we shared. With a smile and a name, he built a bridge that could span any cultural divide.
This is what I’ll remember most about him, because it wasn’t only me that felt that way. He was forever building bridges, befriending people of all ages, all races, and all beliefs. There was no difference so great that it couldn’t be overcome. He loved people, no matter what, and we loved him back.
I know that teachers are supposed to teach lessons to their students, but, when we are lucky—when we are very lucky—we are taught in return. Shane’s life was too brief, but in that time, he taught us all a great deal. He touched our lives, and we will miss him.