We can all point to people in our lives that have shaped us in some way. Parents and grandparents. Teachers and coaches. Close friends. A friend of mine recently shared with me that some of the people who have made the biggest lasting impression on her are people who have moved in and out of her life – friends in the broad sense of the word, but not people she sees regularly or even keeps in touch with.
“After getting to know each of these women, I would think, ‘I want to be her when I grow up,’” my friend said. “When I do see them, or hear from them, they just make me smile.”
She went on to explain that they each have a way of making others feel exceedingly welcome in their presence. “When you are around them, you believe you really matter,” she says about each of them. She writes:
I met Pamela at work. I was in my 20s, still trying to figure out what to do with my life and what it meant to be successful. When I had the opportunity to work for a former client, I jumped at the chance. Pamela worked in my department. She was older (she would never say her age, but I’m guessing she has around 15-20 years on me), very well-respected and exceptionally competent at her job. She had lots of outside interests and was always doing fun, unusual things in her free time. She was kind and friendly to everyone regardless of the person’s position. She treated everyone with respect – even people who made her job difficult, or whom she didn’t like personally. She never gossiped. She never quit early or slacked off. She rarely complained. I was often frustrated in my job, but she taught me volumes about having a strong work ethic, about being professional, and most of all, about how to treat others. And now, about 25 years later, I still think of her as someone I’d like to be when I grow up.
I met Susan when I was going through cancer treatment. Many people in the community were stepping up to help me. It wasn’t easy to accept that help, especially from people I didn’t know, but I didn’t really have a choice. I had a three-year-old son at the time and no family close by. A couple of my closest friends organized meals and childcare for me. I thought I had everything under control, but Susan kept calling. “What can I do for you?” she would ask. I kept saying, “Nothing right now. I’m fine. I don’t need any more help.” But, she was persistent. About once a week or so, she would check back. In Judaism, it is considered a good deed to allow someone to help you, and eventually, I relented. I was finding it more difficult to drive myself to my chemo appointments, and so I finally asked if she would like to drive me. It took about half an hour each way to get to my oncologist’s office for treatment, and those rides with Susan became a highlight of my week. As I said, we did not know each other prior to this, but she was so genuinely caring – and funny and kind. I’m so grateful that I had that chance to get to know her. She taught me not to be afraid to accept help, and not to be afraid to offer it either. Susan is definitely someone I’d like to be when I grow up!