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“An old blind man was sitting on a busy street corner in the rush hour begging for money. On a cardboard sign, next to an empty tin cup, he had written: Blind...please help.”
No one was giving him any money. An advertising writer walked past and saw the blind man with his sign and empty cup, and the many people passing by completely unmoved, let alone stopping to give money.
The advertising writer took a marker from his pocket, turned the cardboard sheet over, and rewrote the sign, then went on his way.
Immediately, people began putting money into the cup.
After a while, when the cup was overflowing, the blind man asked a stranger to tell him what the sign now said.
“It says,” said the stranger, “it’s a beautiful day. You can see it. I cannot.”
Dr. Follins, Dr. Wood, Dr. Hamilton, Dr. Dove, members of the NLC family, it is a beautiful day and to be acknowledged for doing something I love humbles me almost beyond speech.
I’m honored to walk in the shadows of people like Jennifer Marks, Pat Terrell, Dianne Beechinor, Barb Mayo and Vanessa Mayfield. Giants who’ve walked the halls of a place Dr. Eric Reno help build. There are a lot of things I’d rather be doing right now…playing Candy Crush or Pet Rescue, laughing in the foyer of Dr. Hudspeth’s office with Anita and Cheyenne, or be in the classroom that gives me the energy to ask my students “Why can’t they keep up with me while walking to a HOME meeting Crystal has called to remind me I can’t keep using age as an excuse to screw up.” LOL Crystal. But I can’t back down from giving back a bit of this award to those of you who chose to make this not only a beautiful day, but one I won’t soon forget.
Speaking before students is one thing. Speaking before an audience of strangers is not a big deal. Standing in front of your peers to receive an award that embodies NLC is chilling. But here goes.
Today I want to take a few moments to talk about mentorship, specifically three things. I’ll talk about yours, mine and ours. Then I’ll end with a little mentoring story.
Mentors take many forms. Think about mentors as people, quotes and books as I ask you who are your mentors?
Think about it. Who made a difference in your life? How can you give a bit of that back? A favorite quote that’s become a staple for my classes is one Jen shared with me. It’s by Eleanor Roosevelt. “No one can make you feel inferior except yourself.” A good quote goes a long way in mentoring. And a good book goes equally as far. Turn to the person next to you. Tell them what your favorite book is. Go ahead. Later ask them why. Two of my favorite books happen to be “Jonathan Livingston Seagull,” and “Leo the Late Bloomer,” a children’s book I shared with Karl Frey, my ‘Covey’ partner. Read them. I would also encourage all of you to read “The Last Lecture,” that talks about brick walls. As we have faced the brick wall of accreditation we’ve gotten stronger each time. Soon we’ll knock it down, but that wall has made us family. And we are…
ask Crystal about her recent visit to D. C., Vanessa about her nephew, Tara about meeting Gloria Steinem or Robert where he gets his Hawaiian shirts.
Secondly, my mentors. I’ve been lucky over the years. Every day I learn something precious and my mentors include people who tell it like it is and allow me to be who I am. I’ll never forget Dr. Hamilton’s response to one of my naive moments: “Archie that went right over your head.” Lot of things go over my head. That’s why some people might think I’m a bit “intense” as Mark Harris laughingly told me one day at the copying machine. Barb does her best to remind me to slow down and trust the process. Got me a new office. Thanks Barb. Or there was the day I ignored PDA when Jennifer Marks felt she had no one to talk to about missing Allison. So I reached out; held her because we’re family here and it just seemed right. We learn from each other because we’ve done it right from the start. It might be Wes yelling instructions to get us to the top of the rock wall; Efrain encouraging us to create a new course; filling in for an instructor who’s an ocean away; or volunteering like Frank to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving. We’re in this together. Devin was a mentor. I wear a vest because Tracey put the thought in my head. Devin liked vests. One day I was walking down the hallway and Marley Walker told me whenever she saw me wearing my hat it made her think of her dad. So I wear one and think of her dad. Mark Twain said, ‘never let the truth get in the way of a good story.’ You don’t make this stuff up. Sarah! And then there’s Jessica whose smile lit up a room. She was another person who made up my family of mentors and left me wanting to do more—always to do more.
Yours, mine and lastly ours, the mentors we all have—our students. Those wonderful in God’s image creations that make us laugh, like the time a student walked into my class during a quiz and said “No one told me we were having a pop quiz,” or as Mark Sadler mentioned how one student literally took pencil to paper to ‘print out’ an assignment. And we all have had that student who knows you have office hours because they come to your office just as you are leaving; or the student you feel will never get it, but trusts you and gets it. Then tells one of us how wonderful you are as one of Lisa Strain’s students told me how wonderful Lisa is. Students indeed are our final mentors. They make each day a challenge and worthy of coming. And trust me, I come to teach and stay as long as I can because I know when I go home, I have to go to work. My wife has a honey-due list like the Ever Ready rabbit.
So hopefully I’ve enlightened you a bit about mentorship: yours, mine and ours.
Now my story… Some of you may or may not know I used to be a runner. I’ve run three marathons to include Greece; participated in San Antonio’s first Rock & Roll half-marathon. A few years ago I fell during the Christmas break, lacerated my quadriceps tendon. I taught a good deal of that spring semester in a wheel chair. REALLY!! “I loved it;” especially when I had students trying to keep up with me in the hallway. It was great!!
Well I always say God has a sense of humor and she just loves seeing how she can mess with me.
One day I had a meeting someplace about something I didn’t know anything about. I wasn’t sure attendance was going to be taken, so I went. It was in the library. As soon as the meeting was over I wheeled back to the Academic building because I had a class. My class was on the third floor and guess what? The frigging elevator didn’t work. “I was pissed.”
Now I’m innovative. I’ve had a student participate in a group presentation via her phone because she’d had car trouble. I’ve had … never mind. Just let it be known I look adversity in the face and like Nietzsche I believe that which does not kill you only makes you stronger. Well God had just served me a bunch of manure with no shovel. I wheeled myself to the other end of the building and as I sat at the bottom of those stairs, looked up the staircase almost in tears I knew a decision had to be made. I could walk up the steps—no problem. But I had a damned wheelchair I was renting and no idea how I was going to get it up there too.
There are times when we’re humbled; want to lash out. There are times when we’re so broken we don’t know what we’re going to do. I knew I’d never run another marathon; do a wheelie in the courtyard or get away from my wife’s honey-due list. All that didn’t matter. All I cared about at that moment was getting to class. And then it happened.
“Can I help you?” A student appeared and asked. Without hesitating he took the chair up the three flights. I thanked him, then wheeled myself to class.
Sometimes we’re so focused on what we think we’re called to do we forget what we’re doing. I made it to class. My students were “awed” as usual. But later, I felt terrible. I never got the student’s name who helped me and never saw him again. But he mentored me, even today as I shared his story with you. Never pass up the moment to be kind, generous and pass it on, or just say thank you.
Thank you. Thank you for the award. Thank you Barb for nominating me, and thank you all for allowing an old man to be a part of the greatest group of people I’ve ever had the pleasure to be a part.
It is a beautiful day. Now I have to go home to the Ever Ready rabbit.