Wednesday, November 16, 2022

A Gratitude Tale of Two Students

by Patrick O'Connor, Ph.D.

It was near the top of a tall pile of emails, but deep enough into the list that my speed-skimming abilities had kicked into gear. Since it started with the ubiquitous “You don’t know me, but…”, I was ready to delete, but for some reason, I kept reading.

“You don’t know me, but I attended one of those college seminars you hold at the local public library. I already had a list of colleges, but something really struck me when you said not to be happy with what you knew—that it was important to look around the edges of your list, see what else was out there, and think about what was possible.”

“I went home and started my search again, and sure enough, there was a school that sounded perfect for me. It wasn’t in my geographic comfort zone—in fact, it was miles from home—but everything I read told me this was a place worth investigating.”

“I did just that, and ended up applying to a school I never would have considered, and was sure I couldn’t afford. They admitted me, and offered a scholarship that made it possible—so off I went.”

“Right now, I’m flying back to campus to start my second year, and I saw this article you wrote in the inflight magazine about choosing a college. I’m glad it reminded me to thank you for encouraging me to do more.”

In a profession where you aren’t supposed to have any favorites, there was something about this student that made me root for her at every turn. She had a receptivity to living and learning that was pretty rare in a high school student, evidenced by her willingness to try out for the spring musical without ever performing in public before. She made the show and landed the lead—and with every performance, the audience was stunned to see her onstage, let alone doing so well.

The odd thing was, for as much as I liked this student, I really didn’t do anything special to help her with her college search. We met a few times, then put together a list, following that up in the fall. She went back to the wonderful life she was living—just like it’s supposed to work for every student. I don’t remember seeing her past October, but I was confident she’d end up in the right place, simply because students who know themselves well tend to feel they are in the right place no matter where they are.

A year went by, and I was getting ready to shut things down for Christmas, when in she came to my office, even more alive, more outgoing, and more receptive to what life had to offer. I asked how things were going, and off she went, telling me about the glories of every nook and cranny of her wonderful life at a college that rarely showed up on anyone’s radar.

“That’s great” I said, “but tell me, how’d you find this place?”

The tone of the room went from warm to austere for just a moment, as she looked at me wide, surprised eyes, laughed, and said “You told me about it.”

It’s the season for gratitude, and there’s much to be said for stopping and realizing just how good we have it in this life. At the same time, if conjuring up a gratitude list turns out to be too artificial an exercise, it may be wise to find a comfortable chair and simply let the unknown blessings wash over us. Their power is really something wonderful.

No comments:

Post a Comment