There’s the older student who finally told her family she was a lesbian.“You just haven’t met the right man – that was the least offensive thing anyone said,” she told me.The most offensive?Relatives who declared she was possessed by the devil – that she was the devil. Being told to keep away from her nieces and nephews.There’s the young woman who told me she could never, ever, tell her parents she had been raped.“It was my fault,” she whispered. “I should have screamed.”There’s the student whose dreams of becoming a fighter pilot were dashed when he tested colorblind. The student had lived years for that future. He had designed every decision around that hope.Some tell me they’ve been thinking about how easy it would be to roll their car over a ravine or to reach for the prescription medicines that could make the pain go away (and them, too).They ask me: What is the point of living with rejection, with fear, with failure?They’re depressed and lost.They hate themselves.They hurt.Every semester I learn that one of my jobs as a teacher is to tell my students their own stories.“Can I tell you a story?” I asked the first student. “I went to my parents’ for Thanksgiving. I thought it was the right time, so I told them about my friend – my girlfriend. They didn’t believe me at first. My mother told me I just hadn’t met the right man. She must have told my aunt because the next day, she told me to stay away from her kids. I love those kids …”I look at my student’s face. She is hearing her story from my mouth. She is able to hear the pain she can barely express herself. Her face twists.The woman who is raped begins to cry when I tell her her story. How he hurt me and wouldn’t listen when I told him to stop, how I can’t tell my parents, how I should have yelled.Even my colorblind student is moved with the truth of his own experience. I ask him, as I’ve asked the others, “What would you tell me if I told you this, if I said I wasn’t sure what I was going to do now? What would you say?”They would tell me, they say, that it’s all right to be who I am.They would tell me that what he did was wrong, whether I could scream or not. They would say, “There is hope. Don’t throw your life away.”So then I ask them: Can you tell that to yourself?Most of us are capable of great compassion and understanding for others. We find it hard to show that same compassion and understanding to ourselves.This is the most important lesson I could ever teach any of my students.So to the students in my office last week and to the ones who will be there in some other week, can I tell you a story?