Your Impact Matters

Life’s road seems to always be a twisting, changing path. Sometimes Life can seem like a major eight-lane super-highway with no speed limits. Other times, it can feel like a deer trod taking you through some of the deepest, thickest woods you have ever seen. Complete with trees that claw at your clothing as you pull past. But we always seem to keep traveling it, why? Well, in my case, its because that’s the Path I’ve been asked to travel. Not because of what is at the end of the trail, but because of the people I’ll meet along the way. The stories that I will get the chance to share with them and the stories they might offer in return. Because everyone wants to be heard, and sometimes you have to share before they will.

When I was fired from my job earlier this week, I spent a lot of time thinking about the interactions I had with various folks there. Students, faculty members, staff, alumni, and even parents of some of the students. Each one of them had an impact in my life, and not just the positive interactions. Yes, even the negative interactions had impact in my life. I always replayed those interactions in my mind to see what I could have done differently, what I could have changed. But each experience was a learning moment for me.

The student that wanted to write who was in my Introduction to Computer Information Systems class. I designed an extra-credit assignment for the students to be able to write about the future of technology. It was only meant to be a three-page assignment. She provided me a ten-page, single-spaced report on how she thought the future of coffee technology would develop over five, ten, fifteen, and twenty years. She even provided arguments and sources for why she felt that future development would come about. I kept in touch with her for a short-time after the class ended, and eventually she entered into one of the two local four-year colleges, focusing on her writing skills.

One of the faculty members had a major issue occur in their life. I, like many other members of the college, stepped forward to help out with the aftermath. Our assistance made a huge difference in getting everyday life back in place. I cannot count the number of times I have come across a parent in the hallways, both as a staff member and as an adjunct faculty member, where they were stressed about their child’s progress in classes. The amount of discussion with them over some of the coping skills that I thought would be helpful with their stress levels over the success/failure of their child.

And, finally, the young student with cerebral palsy, who took my class one Spring. He would come to class in his wheelchair, and park just off to the side where I typically paced in my classroom. I asked questions of my students to see if they had read the material. Granted, Information Systems can be boring to some people, especially if its not their field. I did my utmost best to try and show how Information Systems impact their daily lives. For this student, I really didn’t know how to get there. On the second week of class, I noticed him sitting out in front of the building, as if he was waiting for someone. He was – his nanny. Everyone flowed around him and went on their way to their cars. Every single day, for the rest of my sixteen-week course, I would stand there with this student and wait with him for his nanny. We conversed mainly about baseball, me the southern Ohio fan (Cincinnati Reds), he being a fan of the northern Ohio team (Cleveland Indians). Afterwards, he nominated me for an award with the Office of Disabilities.

But none of this is about an award. The award was a nice way for him to say “thank you”. This is about the interactions we have with each other, and the impact we have on one another. Each interaction I have had has left some impact on other people. Again, some are not so positive in nature, but I can always learn from that. I can replay things and see where I may have made a mistake or come off too harsh with someone. Sometimes, its just a bad day. Sometimes it can be other things. If I find fault with the way I did things, I find that individual (if possible) and apologize, even if the other person doesn’t believe me to be genuine.

A few folks have suggested that my former department would be contacting me for help with some of the more complicated queries that I had written. And once that contact was made, that I could screw them over by refusing to help – its their problem now. But honestly, if they did contact me for help, I would help them. I even said so to my department’s Vice Chancellor three times before I left (three because I am a Druid ::grins::). I would gladly help them to understand what I wrote because in not doing so, I could hurt the college. And in hurting the college, I would hurt people throughout the college, people I love dearly and count as dear friends. That would violate everything I know about myself to be true.

So, I posit this to you: every interaction you have with other people – those you know and those who are strangers – could be the most important moment that other person has in the course of their day. Do you want them to remember you as the individual who walked by and said nothing, never acknowledged them? Or would you rather be that person that walked by, smiled and said “good morning” – changing their outlook on their whole day? You have that power. And really, deep-down, everyone wants to be acknowledged as existing. What’s your impact? I’ll close this post with the words of Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead from the last show of the “Fare Thee Well” concerts….

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