Who did you need when you were younger?
Last week, I got message on social media from a woman I’d only met once, at her sister’s funeral.
I was close with her sister, Barbara, when we were both just getting started in our careers, working together to help create the national service program AmeriCorps. Barbara died about six months ago, after a long battle with cancer, and left a husband and three teenage sons behind. I was in my first real job, but Barbara was just a few years ahead of me, and seemed to know everything about everything.
I admired and respected Barbara to the ends of the earth, and her natural ease with the difficult work we were doing intimidated me to no end. I desperately wanted to ask for help — I was drowning in my own ineptitude — but we were working in a culture of peacocks, where the bravado and the strut of these brilliant ivy leaguers made doing such a thing nigh impossible for my public school, fumbling, mumbling self.
Barbara couldn’t help but see my flailing. Her cubicle faced mine, so she had a front row seat to the horror show on a daily basis. One day, she noticed that I was having a particularly hard time, and leaned over and gave me a little advice. That advice turned to regular Q&A sessions, which turned into daily lunches in the park.
In time, I started giving her advice, too, most notably on this new guy she was dating and eventually on planning their marriage. I’m not sure I knew all that much, but I was a few months into my own forever relationship so at least I had some light to shed, dim though it be.
She was the person I needed when I was younger.
And then her sister reached out to me and told me that their eldest was in need of some career /life advice and could she buy a copy of Limitless for him, that maybe I could sign, that maybe she could send him.
Of course you know how I responded. This book is my gift to him, because his mother, her sister, was a gift to me.
Who did you need when you were younger? And are you being that person for others now?