blank'/> Mirth, Melancholy, and the Mundane: August 2012

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Just Save One...

Life has ley-lines -- defined in different ways depending on your spiritual inclination -- but I'm simply referring to the way life seems to comment on itself and rearrange events so as to have them line up in interesting and often fortuitous ways.  I will explain.

Day One.  Morning.  I sat in the new auditorium at work listening to the opening remarks made by the president of the college.  She talked of the things she always talks about -- enrollment and retention, initiatives and strategic plans, budgets and construction.  In her graceful and eloquent way, she spoke of her dreams for the college and, as she often does, she made it deeply personal.  She talked of students as if she knew each one and as if her heart broke a little every time we lost one.  And I'm sure, in a way, it does.  As part of this talk, she asked us to imagine how different the college could be if we each saved one.  Just one.

Day Two, Morning.  I had breakfast with a former student.  We always talk of getting together, but we don't manage it nearly enough for either one of us to be happy.  During the course of our conversation, it came to light that she wanted to return to school, but knew she owed money to the college and was trapped in a reluctant, embarrassed cycle of procrastination and fear.  I knew she was capable of so much more than she was currently in a position to do, so I suggested -- then encouraged, then downright demanded -- that she return to the campus with me and speak to the powers that be about what she owed and how she might go about fixing things that so she could return, someday, to school.

Day Two, Noon.   I was speaking to a friend and colleague in the lunch line about the morning's events without really realizing that the president of the college was behind me, listening.  After a few minutes, I realized this to be the case and I expanded my explanation to include her as well -- we talked of the ache of watching dreams slip away for something as frustrating as money.  We talked of saving a student.  Our conversation ended with her suggesting I speak to the controller of the college about the situation.

Day Two, Afternoon.  After exchanging a couple of emails in which I was told that something could likely be worked out, I went to the controller and told him the story, and within a few moments, the hold was lifted on her account and she was free to register.  The only caveats were that she make arrangements with the collection agency, she get a job on campus, and she do well.  I had countless assurances from her that she would.  Just like that, an obstacle became a concurrent responsibility.

Day Three, Afternoon.  The student became just that - a student at the college.  She took care of the collection agency, financial aid, and reactivating her account.

Day Three, Evening -- As the student and I discussed possible student aide jobs, I had a flash of thought and sent a message to the director of the writing center on campus inquiring as to whether or not they were looking for peer tutors.  They were.  Now, the student will be meeting the director at a staff meeting on Friday with a writing sample and a letter of recommendation.  It is not, of course, a sure thing -- but the match seems a good one thus far.

In a space of sixty hours, one speech from a college president who was cutting the ribbon on a new academic year led to an unemployed young woman actively accepting personal responsibility and becoming a college student with an achievable and realistic dream.

She calls it a miracle.  The friend in the lunch line calls it knowing people in high places.  I'm sure the president would call it the least we could do.  I call it serendipity.  I'm not sure it matters what we call it beyond the acknowledgement that these three days unfolded in such a way as to completely turn someone's life around.  She has dreams and her feet are now on a road to achieve them.  It won't be easy for her -- no one is giving her handouts.  All we are doing is giving her the chance to show us what she has.  And me?  I'm not sure I did any real magic -- but I'm not sure that matters either.  I put my neck out there because I believe in her and because the message of enabling success in others was still ringing in my ears.  And I work in a place that is willing to put action to word.  I'm not sure that echos positively on me, or the college, or both.  But no matter where the magic and the power began -- it lies now with her.  And I, for one, cannot wait to see what she can do with these opportunities for I know that she has it in her to do what the president challenged all of us to do.  

Just save one.