"At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I've grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe."
Her last words hang in the air as she puts the book down and pulls out a small plastic bag filled with bells. One by one, she goes to each student in the room and hands us a small bell. They are larger than cranberries--silver ones, gold ones, one bell for each one. As she hands us our bells, she says, "I want to give each of you a bell. Because I believe in you. Not just as writers, but as individuals. When you see that bell, remember that somebody believes in you."
The red-headed girl sitting across from me bursts into tears, and I know that mine is not the only damp eye. Our class is dismissed for the semester. We all have other places to go, other classes and finals to attend... yet we linger. And one by one, we give her a hug and walk out the door. Some of us bearing gifts for our favorite professor, some only carrying thankful hearts. As the room clears out, and I tuck my bell safe in my pocket and follow.
When I arrived home that evening, I pull a small silver chain out of my jewelry box and thread it through the top of the bell. Dangling around my neck, a simple necklace.
The following week, I go to take the GRE exam and am sure to wear my necklace. As the exam begins, I slowly let the air ease from my lungs and give my bell a tiny shake.
The gentle tinkling sound meets my ears, and I remember that somebody believes in me.