For many of us we have been blessed to have great teachers, influencers and mentors in our lives. They helped shape who we are, what career paths we took and what we gave back to our communities. We think of them often, recounting lessons and laughter, and our intention is to reconnect if for no other reason than to thank them for being in our lives at what turned out to be the perfect time. Time goes by – months, years and decades –and our good intentions stay with us but we don’t always act on them.
Twenty-three years ago a colleague and friend of mine, Christine was a senior English major in college and was spending her last semester student teaching at Milton Hershey High School in Pennsylvania. Her supervising teacher on staff was Jim Cudworth who was in his twelfth year of teaching and would go on to spend his entire thirty-three year teaching career at Milton Hershey.
After she graduated and moved across the country to California, Christine stayed in contact with Jim through handwritten letters but their correspondence fell off after a couple of years. She thought of Jim often, especially when his lessons were in the forefront of her mind during various life experiences. She always had the intention to reconnect with him but never reached out.
After reading my book, This is the Moment! Christine was inspired to not let any more time pass to set her intentions into action. She did all of the modern techniques to try to find Jim – she Googled him, looked him up on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, all with no success. She would often give up her search temporarily and then try again a few weeks later. After a couple of months of this routine, she finally did an online search for Jim and his wife and stumbled upon a funeral notice for his wife’s mother that took place more than a year ago. Within the announcement it listed Jim, his wife and the town where they were now living in Pennsylvania. As she tells the story, “I decided to go old-school and actually pick up the phone. I called 411 and asked for his phone number based on the town of record in the announcement.” She did not hesitate and dialed the number immediately. His wife answered and she explained that he was out on a bike ride and she was happy to give him a message.
Christine began with, “Well, he probably doesn’t remember me but I was his student teacher in 1987-88.” To that Jim’s wife responded, “Oh I am sure he remembers you.” Christine thought that was a very kind thing to say but she was not completely convinced he would remember her.
That evening Jim called her back. He started the conversation with a comment that made Christine’s heart fill with the warmth only a good friend can provide, no matter how much time has passed. “Of course I remember you I have been quoting you for 23 years.” Jim explained that some of Christine’s observations during their few months working together had made such an impact on him that he not only remembered the lessons she taught him, but used her words to share them with his colleagues for the last two decades.
That first conversation lasted two hours and it was filled with each of them taking turns sharing fun stories, lessons learned and tremendous gratitude for what each one of them meant and still means to one another. Just the simple act of retelling a story provided new insights into how grateful they were to have been involved in each other’s lives at just the right time.
As it turned out both Jim and Christine had regrets for things unsaid, paths not taken and correspondence not maintained. Within hours of their phone call long emails were exchanged and although they live 3,000 miles away from each other, a date has already been set to reconnect during Christine’s next East Coast trip in less than a month.
This is a heartwarming and very common story that occurs between a mentor and a mentee. We often believe the mentor’s role is to teach and impart wisdom on behalf of the mentee. However, what we don’t always realize and acknowledge is the influence the mentee has to bring forth new observations, fresh ideas and in Christine and Jim’s case, a shared sense of humor that lighten even the toughest days in the classroom.
Thankfully it was not too late for Christine to share with Jim what a tremendous impact he made on her life and how grateful she was to him for all of the lessons (professionally and personally) he taught her.
We all have good intentions to reconnect and share our gratitude – what is stopping you? Where is the hesitation coming from? Remember, hesitation is just one step from taking action. Start searching for that long-lost mentee or mentor. Don’t experience the pain of regret that comes from waiting too long to reach out. Do it today!
I feel blessed that Christine shared her story with me. If you have a similar story about expressing profound gratitude to someone who has impacted your life, please click on the Share Your Story page of this website and send me the details. I would love to hear it and with your permission, share it on the This is the Moment! blog.
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