Father Figure

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Don’t worry, this isn’t about the somewhat creepy George Michael song.  This is more like Clarence telling George Bailey “Strange, isn’t it?  Each man’s life touches so many other lives.  When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”.  No, I didn’t get to experience what life would be like without me but did get to more fully understand just how much of an impact I’ve had.

Several months ago, I wrote a post about that subject concerning a young and talented woman who started with us as an unpaid intern during her senior year in high school and she just graduated from college this past spring. The link to that post is below if you want the entire story.  Somewhere in that post, I talked about having a “work daughter” and Friday I learned just how true that statement was.

http://wp.me/p3Ctx1-bu

Friday was an emotional day because it was her last day at work.  She had accepted a job teaching overseas and was leaving everything she knew behind to follow a passion.  I had already written a glowing letter of recommendation and given her a card wishing her well and giving her my home email and said I’d be there.  The not being her boss was allowing me to step over some lines that were previously in place but I knew that there might be times when she’d want advice from outside her normal circle of friends.

Well, as the date was approaching, I kept hearing from an intermediary that she was really upset about leaving and the worst part for her was thinking that I would never want to talk to her again.  I was planning on having a chat with her before we left but as I got a hint about what was really troubling her, I knew it was a necessity and I actually started running conversations through my head.  Fortunately, she gets in earlier than most so I called her in first thing.  Funny thing was, as she comes in, she says “Am I in trouble?”.  No way to avoid that since it was kind of a summons and it is like being sent to the principal’s office.  I told her she wasn’t in trouble and then just sat her down and started talking about how I knew everything was going to be OK with her and that she’d be fine and then I got to tell her that while she was leaving, I was still going to be a part of her life.  The line I ended up with was “you are just starting to write your story and I want to know how it turns out”.  I told her that I very much wanted to hear about her adventures and how things were going.  She was in tears by this point and it was touch and go for me for a minute or so but I think just hearing it was a big load off her mind.  She told me that I better be prepared for lots of letters because when she gets lonely, she writes for no reason and I told her that wasn’t a problem.  We hugged (since I was still her boss at that point, I did ask to make sure it was OK).

Later in the day, she gave me a card.  I knew that her family situation was less than ideal and she gave me some hints of that when we had talked in the morning but I think those were things she chose to share with others.  But one line from the card was “You were the first person to tell me that I wasn’t completely worthless.”  Wow, that hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks.  I again almost lost it and then I just got mad at her parents.  I know there might be some exaggeration and drama in that line but it was also clear that her parents either didn’t see the positives in her or simply chose not to say anything.  This is very talented and nice person who has the ability to do great things and to find out the depths to which she was struggling with her own self worth was heartbreaking.  We all need someone to believe in us.  We need someone to recognize the good in us.  We need someone who builds us up, not someone who tears us down.  And, if that is what she needs, then sign me up because I see the potential for greatness there.   I strongly suspect that she will only need me for a short time.  Once she gets over there and throws herself into what’s she’s doing and builds a support system, then the need here becomes less.  But, I’m happy to do this for as long as she needs me.

She signed the letter “The daughter you never wanted”.  I talked to my Mom about this since I don’t have any kids and she told me I need to tell her that she’s the daughter you would have loved to have had.  I may tweak that a bit but I plan to do it.  Her birthday is coming up so I think that is my opportunity.

Oh, and towards the end of the day on Friday, I was talking with the intermediary (who also happens to work for me) and she said “Its alright to say that you love her like a daughter”.  I said nothing because I realized at that point it is true.

We really do touch a lot of other lives.  Without really meaning to or fully understanding it, you can have a major influence on someone’s life.   Choose to be a positive influence.  The rewards are much better.

 

2 comments

  1. Good for you, Wall! That young woman’s life if better ’cause you’re on the planet. Yep, in all likelihood, she will likely drift away from you as time passes. I know that from experiences I’ve had with a few very special mentees over my 32-yr teaching career. But…listen up, now….she will NEVER forget you. I know that, too,

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