I heard you’re moving to a new office today, and I was filled with gratitude. I just wanted to send big hugs, across a few states, to wish you success.
I remember the day you taught one of my rehabilitation counseling classes, and I was impressed by your wisdom. Meeting you, I began to ditch my stereotypes of lovely, young professors.
When we began working together, we were paired as mentor and “mentee” (I will never get used to that word). I struggled with the antique computer system, all the government rules, all the fuss over seemingly straightforward assignments.
Thank you for your reassurance, then. You taught me patience. This was a lesson not learned easily, as you may recall.
I remember a meeting of new counselors when I whined aloud about some annoyance, and you promptly dismissed my complaint with a remark something like this: “Well, if you want to expend negative energy on it …”
Ah, redheaded Socrates. I began to lose negative energy from that moment.
I struggled with arcane regulations, the never-ending paperwork. You taught me all the little quirks; you shared resources; and, again, you taught me patience.
You seemed astonished any of this would be a bother.
When I first heard you sing, I was moved. I was thrilled because the way you inspire people through your work extends to your private life. You showed all of us how to balance the demands of counseling with a full, personal life. You pulled us out on the streets of San Francisco, marching and celebrating and meeting new friends, all day long.
I celebrate your exuberance.
Every one of your concerts was a joy. I particularly remember the one at an historic church in San Francisco, with the rainbow of colors spilling through stained glass windows on the tuxedoed shoulders of the tenors. I met your partner there, and your dad, and I saw it.
I saw the love you shared, and realized why you had so much to give others. That joy infused your work; it was manifested in optimism, which you shared widely, with all.
Your laugh, your hair colors, your enthusiasm for life … you brought all of that to us, and to the people with disabilities with whom you worked. Amid many miseries, you spread joy.
Thank you, Ms. Mentor, for all you taught me. Thank you for teaching me to open my heart to the most challenging, the most difficult — the women and men in the most pain.
Thank you for that prod about negative energy. I’ve been working on it ever since.
Thanks for standing at the front of our class that day, and showing such courage. I had not met anyone like you before — that strength of spirit coupled with inner joy — and I still lived in cynicism.
I’ve been working on it, Ms. Mentor. I’ve been working on it.
Thank you for everything.