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“If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.”
—Barry Lopez
(as Badger, in Crow and Weasel)


To be nobody but yourself -- in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody else -- means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.
- e. e. cummings


"You Helped Me Grow"

-------It's strange to see how many things we take for granted in our day-to-day existence. Sometimes we fail to recognize even the most profound aspects of our personality or personal situation. As we go around in our little bubble, we often assume everyone else feels the same way about certain things. This became very apparent to me through an experience I had a few years ago as I attended a professional workshop.
-------I am usually very quiet in new group situations until I become familiar with the people involved. Even then my level of contribution to the group is relative to the degree of interest and understanding I have concerning the topic of conversation. The only exception to this condition is created when something really strikes home and stirs deep emotions within my personality. I first strain for understanding, hoping the speaker will address the situation that eats away at my psyche. Sometimes the discomfort becomes strong enough that I move to action, asking the speaker to address the topic of my concern.
--------This particular workshop was on the subject of teacher supervision. All the techniques and situations we discussed regarding the matter of supervision were clouded in my thinking by a very basic personality trait I possess. I find it very difficult to tell a colleague and friend how he should conduct his affairs, professional or otherwise. The way I've always seen it, "who am I to tell a fellow human soul that my way is better." Knowing I had a responsibility for supervision, I struggled for answers. How could I, within my personality structure, effectively supervise others?
------ -As the conversation continued, more and more information was piling up, all of it very pertinent and perhaps quite valuable. The problem for me was that this data dump was formatted for an operating system other than my own. It seemed as though the others were systematically processing megabytes of information while I searched helplessly for the key to simply boot the system. Finally my restlessness moved me to speak. I expressed my inability to take the lead for the fear of damaging my relationship with the peers I was assigned to supervise. My goal was always to inspire and motivate by encouragement or example, not to dictate or direct. Put simply, I desired the affection of my subordinates.
-------After I made my comment, the strangest thing (at least in my limited sight at the time) happened. A woman seated two rows in front of me let out a sigh of relief and understanding and exclaimed, "that's my problem!" She had quite obviously been sitting through the same struggle as myself, yet the reasons never dawned on her. This characteristic was so basic to my personality that I never imagined that anyone could feel this way and not know it. The feelings I had were as common and basic to daily living as the action of courtesy toward someone who helps us, or the feelings of disappointment when we let ourselves down.
-------At the break that followed this segment of the workshop, the lady came to my table and placed her hand on mine. With a lightness as though tons of weight had been lifted from her she spoke. "Thank you so much, you just helped me grow."
--------Though I got no real hard-line answers to my problem that day, I did realize I was not alone. Furthermore, I realized that I was blessed with the ability to - at least marginally - know myself. And finally, I learned that we could learn a great deal about ourselves through our relationship with others. She had given me credit for helping her when my motives had been entirely selfish.
-------But I accepted her thanks, feeling elated at the knowledge that there are others in the world for which personal growth is an important thing, and at the understanding that together we can help to spur this growth.

© 2004 - The Trill House