Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Grateful: being warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received.

Today I spent 20 minutes on the phone with a mother who could not have been more grateful to all we, the royal we of the college, have done for her and her daughter. She kept saying that. She began the conversation concerned about how she was going to pay the bill. After resolving a bit of that concern, and explaining some of her options about the payment for the balance, she launched into a discussion about how wonderful the college has been to them. How she approached our office feeling embarrassed to discuss her situation, but that not one person made her feel awkward about it, that we just set about explaining what to do and helping them through the process. She spent a few minutes talking about her daughter and how she has learning disabilities, and that they worked very hard throughout high school to help her and get her tutoring, and that the end result was she wrote about it in her admissions essay, with no help from anyone. She talked about her life and how hard she had worked to provide a good life for her children, and despite the fact that now she and their father are going through a difficult divorce, they should still go to college and get the education she never got.

Often during these conversations, where the person feels the need to ramble on, sometimes incoherently, I wander into a zone where I am just responding with "Uh hu" or "Hmmm" and I am waiting for that break where I can bring the conversation to a close. This time was different. I could tell this woman REALLY wanted me to understand how thankful she was and why. So I listened. And I HEARD her. I appreciate how hard she has worked and how she is still going to work hard to make this happen. She wasn't just asking me to solve the problem for her, like many people do, she just wanted to know her options. She is very proud of her daughter, and she wanted me to understand that. Not because she wanted me to give her more money for being a hard working great kid, but because she wanted me to know she was a hard working great kid is stretching herself in ways no one thought possible.

Mostly she wanted to say thank you. She said she wanted to say it in writing, should she send a letter to the president of the college. YES I said. He would love to hear all this goodness about his staff. But even if she doesn't do that, I heard it. I heard a mother who is proud of her child, and grateful for everything people have done to make this transition possible and smooth.

And I am really grateful to her for sharing all of that. Because it is the thing that keeps me doing this job. When I am disillusioned about work, because of bureaucratic crap, endless streams of stupidity from many sources, it is this kind of conversation that reminds me why I do it. We really can and do make a difference in people's lives.

And that picture is my dog Gus. He expresses gratitude in ways that people just cannot, at least not without risking arrest or being shunned. Like plopping his whole body on top of me on the couch and sticking his nose in my face, giving me the love, or lying on his back waggling his feet in the air in the sun on the deck as if to say "THANK YOU for letting me out here to sunbeam doze." Dogs are the definition of gratitude sometimes.

I hope you find something to be grateful for today.


Audubon Ron said...


Laura said... both fin aid and dogs!

Anonymous said...

I too am a proud mom - the never ending surprises of my children, et al - their abilities and determination - the love they share every day. Thanks.