Friday, November 13, 2015

Highest Compliment

So, I received what I count as one of the biggest compliments I have ever received last night.  I was at the annual gala event for Back on My Feet, Baltimore.  It it referred to as a bash.  People come in suits and other non-casual clothing but with running shoes.  It's a fun time.  

I've only been to two of the seven that Back on My Feet, Baltimore has had but the director (and now executive director) was the same person at both.  She is a running mentor.  She has become a dear friend.  And she was a former part-time MPH student whom I advised.

Last night, I was able to compare her presentations at the event to how she had presented several years back.  Several years ago she was great.  But she spoke at an incredibly fast pace.  Last night her poise, serenity, and sense of presence had matured incredibly since the last time I saw her present.  It was wonderful for someone who had been her academic advisor and one of her many mentors on the professional development side see that maturation process in action.

Afterwards, I mentioned it to be her and her husband.  She thanked me.  That provided an uplifting feeling.  But what made me stop and catch my breath was when her husband thanked me and told me what a difference he knew I'd made in her development.  Sure, I've had an occasional parent tell me at a graduation ceremony about how I made a difference for a doctoral student in their dissertation or something like that. But to have someone, eighteen months after the student graduated, point out that they could see how I made a difference for the student during the time I worked with the student (which was three years in the part-time program) was truly an incredible, delightful, and overwhelming experience.  Then he went on to say something to the effect that I had probably had a bigger influence on most of my students than I would ever realize.

Maybe I have.  Perhaps someday I'll hear that.  Perhaps it will remain unsaid until a retirement celebration or memorial service someday.  Perhaps the thoughts will remain in the hearts and minds of those I've advised.  In fact, I'd have no problem with that outcome.  Because I know that I have done the best I can for each student in that type of position.  And that is all anyone can ever ask of me.

But to have even one person point it out made it more real.  And made my hopeful that my difference in the world will not be confined just to those I touch directly.  But that it may make a difference to many people separated from me by one or two or three connections.  

And that is not to get big headed about it.  Just to recognize it. Be thankful for it.  And go on doing the best I can for each person with whom I interact in the amazing life with which I have been blessed.

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