she is smart, ambitious, cute as the proverbial button, and has a smile that could melt ice.
But, first, the background —
I’ve made a lot of correct decisions in my life, decisions that have proven beneficial in both the short- and long-term, but, like most people I know, seem more often to remember the not-so-correct decisions. The most recent example being my brilliant decision to wait until yesterday, the day before a major nor’easter is dumping between three and fourteen inches — depending on which source one prefers — of wet, heavy snow, to look for chains for my snow blower’s tires (nope, wasn’t able to get ’em).
A different decision was made a couple of months ago, following a meeting of one of the networking groups I attend. At that meeting, the guest speaker presented on the importance of volunteer work, especially when one is unemployed (whoops…excuse me, in transition). Emphasis was placed on making certain to volunteer somewhere, doing something, that has a chance of leading to employment by the group one is volunteering for, or making strong contacts with decision-makers at the place.
As someone who has volunteered over the years for a number of causes and projects, this emphasis made me just a little bit uneasy. Not to suggest I didn’t understand the value of what the speaker extolled, but, for me, anyway, I’ve always felt that emphasis should always be on doing the greater good without thought of personal gain. It is possible — much more than possible — that had I adopted the speaker’s philosophy many years ago, my career path would have taken an entirely different route. But I didn’t. I only volunteered when I thought my abilities, skills, and talents could be put toward good causes.
Anyway, after the speaker’s presentation I decided I needed something more to do. I was already involved helping a group, but it wasn’t anything that could benefit me in the way the speaker indicated. The problem was determining where best to give some time, that might expose me in a positive light to people who could be of help to me.
I spoke with the presenter, and a couple of other folks, and two specific, and quite different, opportunities were suggested to me; considering timing, realistically, I couldn’t help out both. One place involved some physical labor in an environment where I might be less visible to the powers-that-be than the other, so I went with the other: An inner-city middle school in need of tutors. I realized my communication, counseling, and interpersonal skills could be used to help a young student, and might be noticed by professionals in a position to help me market those skills.
My first day with the student assigned to me was around Thanksgiving and, as I wrote earlier, she is smart, ambitious, cute as the proverbial button, and has a smile that could melt ice. Even though more than occasionally distracted by those around her, she is eager to learn and prove herself. After our sessions, when I leave the school, I feel as if I have made a little difference in a good way.
Flash forward to earlier this week when the universe collided with my decision making. A friend contacted me with information about a just-posted position that would take advantage of my skills and experiences. He’d heard about it through someone he knows who works at, you guessed it, the place I’d passed on for volunteering. I applied for the position, wondering if I had volunteered there instead of the school, would that have worked in my favor. Surprisingly for me, I didn’t dwell too much on this, although I remember saying “Damn,” and shaking my head. Hopefully, I will at least get an interview but, if not, then not. At some point another opportunity, perhaps a much better one, will present. I know that I spent a little time wondering if my priorities– in general — were in my best interests and, in fact, would my best interests ever be my number one priority.
Which takes me to yesterday when I met with my student. She needed help with math and I taught her a trick to help her master multiplying by nine (the sum must add up to nine, or the multiplication was incorrectly done — she was astonished when I showed her examples, and delighted with this new knowledge), and then worked with her on an introspective writing assignment. She did really well with her work, especially considering the noisy environment, and I commended her, as I do when she has made an accomplishment. When our time was up and I was putting on my coat, she told me I was the best, and then she hugged me. This was a first.
So, OK, this is where I should write something to the effect of even though I might have got a job had I decided to volunteer at the other place, look at what a difference I’m making, but that’s not what I was thinking as I drove away from the school. Frankly, I wasn’t thinking about much. Just about whoever it was who taught me the trick about multiplying by nine — the name, the face, when it happened, have faded from memory long ago — and how good hugs feel.
Next week is school vacation week. I’m going to feel a little lost.