LeVar & I look like we’re in the midst of a tense hostage negotiation. But actually, we were just chillin’!

It’s 1986. A seven year old girl in a small town sits in front of the television set, mesmerized by Reading Rainbow. She has never felt confident in her own skin, but she feels at home with him. Normally, her eyes are unsure and afraid, but as she watches the butterflies dance across the screen while the woman sings “I can be anything…”, she begins to believe it. Each time he opens a book and illustrations jump out at the screen, her dream gets stronger.

One day, she thinks to herself: “I can be anything. I can be a writer.”

A decade later, now seventeen years old, the girl leaves that small town for the big city. She sees things that she’s only read about before. She learns things she had no clue existed. Her eyes are opened. Her heart is opened. Her world is opened.

She writes.

In journals. For class assignments. While traveling. At work. Late at night on her computer. On plane rides home. Everywhere she can.

She writes.

It brings her places, near & far. Eventually, it brings her to Silicon Valley where she begins writing about entrepreneurship. A job becomes a career. A career becomes a movement. She becomes part of something that quite possibly changed an industry, shifted it forward, literally changed the world.

But she still felt a little unsure. She still felt like the seven year-old girl, alone and shaky.

And then she got an email. From LeVar Burton’s agent. THE LeVar Burton. For everyone else, that means Geordi La Forge. Or Kunta Kinte. But for her, it means the man from Reading Rainbow who gave her hope when nothing or no one else did.

“Hi Christen”, he says to her when he calls. Tears come to her eyes, but she fights them back. They speak for nearly thirty minutes — about their shared love of education, his mother, her teaching experience, the new startup he is launching. They agree to meet so he can give a speech to her founders. She asks if he would consider singing the theme song from Reading Rainbow — he laughs and says “maybe!”. After they hang up, she stares straight ahead for the next hour, in complete gratitude for this journey she’s been on.

On the day of the speech, she looks up to see him walking into the room. His eyes catch hers, and she is seven years old again. She is watching him, mesmerized. Only this time, he transcends the television screen. He reaches out, grabs her hands, and holds them while he thanks her for all her hard work. They hug. And then they get ready for his speech, working side by side, until he takes the stage.

He is brilliant. The audience laughs, they learn, they feel inspired. This is a room full of dreamers who believe they can do anything. These are the same kids who watched as he told them that from a screen.

And then he looks at the girl, he smiles big, and starts singing:

Butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high
Take a look, it’s in a book,
A Reading Rainbow!
I can go anywhere
Friends to know, and ways to grow
A Reading Rainbow!

I can be anything
Take a look, it’s in a book
A Reading Rainbow
Reading Rainbow!

The girl goes home that evening and thinks…

~ What if that television show changed the course of my entire life?
~ What if all I needed was someone, even a stranger on TV, to believe in me?
~ What if we’re forgetting to inspire our children to follow their dreams?
~ What becomes of someone who doesn’t follow their dreams?

The day Levar held my hand, the day he looked in my eyes and sang to me — not on a TV screen but in real life, was the day I became sure. I had followed the right path. I had gone twice as high, to places with many friends to know, and many ways to grow.

Never underestimate how important it is to dream, to chase dreams, and to encourage our children to follow their dreams.

Because they really can do anything.