I still remember being terrified of him when I first walked into the choir room during my sixth-grade year. A giant, red-haired goober that articulated every word he said and morphed into a completely different person when he removed his glasses that were so strong they could correct the vision of Helen Keller. I had no idea that the strange giant I was looking at would forever change my life.
Very little time passed before I decided that this man knew what he was talking about. Something about his passion for creativity and the way he literally wore his heart on his sleeve (Jones fighting Harrison as a giant monkey and octopus?) inspired me. My sixth-grade self knew that I wanted to be exactly like him.
Soon after my mom was being forced to drive me long distances every week on Wednesday nights for my out-of-school class that I insisted on taking with Holland. It was there that I was able to hear him speak freely about the Lord working in his life and see him fully utilize his artistic liberty to teach us in whatever way he wanted.
I grew a lot during that time. Not just in theatre, but emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.
At school, he was teaching me how to use my creative mind to change the world. This man loved others in a way I had never seen. He intentionally sought out ways to make others feel better. Whether that be deep conversations about life or simple jests that never failed to make you laugh. He knew how to reflect the character of Christ. And he did it well.
Then the day came when he told me he was leaving his position at my school.
I cried for an entire day and then some.
The concept of losing the teacher that I resonated most with destroyed me. My mom said that it was because he was “Literally you, Sam, if you were a thirty-something male.” So I had finally reached my chief desire to be like Holland yet I had to lose him in the process to do so.
I was angry with God about it for a while. All of my dreams about continuing to grow under his teaching in high school were quickly taken away from me. It hurt. I had no idea He was only just beginning to teach me how to grow on my own.
That’s how far away Holland would be.
I had no idea.
I went through my freshman year learning under an incredible new teacher whom I value immensely today. Yet I was still struggling with not having Holland around. The Lord really did use him to make me a completely new person. A person who was confident, genuine, and a seeker of beauty.
For that, I am forever grateful.
When I found out he was moving to Shanghai, China, I understood that this was what the Lord had been preparing me for.
The fact that I would have to learn how to be myself without the guidance of a teacher whom I considered a mentor, a friend, and a culture changer.
Ah, how the Lord works in mysterious ways.
Right on time, He gave me a group of friends that pushed me in the same ways Holland did, although it was up to me to seek the Lord as my true guider of creativity. I learned the inexpressable beauty of my Father as the man who was somehow able to express even a minuscule aspect of that beauty was taken from me. I grew.
Therefore I have God to thank.
I have 7,324 miles to thank.
I have life to thank.
I have Holland to thank.
Because you changed my life.