My spouse/business partner and I lived in the same house for over 20 years. We watched the neighbors come and go, pass away, and grow from children into adults. We have had one of the most positive experiences of our lives with a neighbor, whom we met soon after she was born, who began taking care of our cats (during our out of town trips) when she was 10 years old. Later, she worked as a part time assistant in our office, when my husband learned she was in need of a job. She turned out to be the best office assistant we ever had, from the time she was 14 until she graduated from high school. She left us to attend college out of town, only to return to work with us for a year after college graduation, until she started law school. My spouse/business partner couldn’t believe our good fortune when we had a job opening that required exactly the credentials she possessed! Needless to say, we enjoyed having her work with us and we wish her well in her latest life endeavor. It is rewarding, to say the least, when one can watch a young person, with obvious potential, grow into a mature person who realizes her potential to make a difference in the world. Many people of my generation tell me there is no hope for the younger generation (as an aside, isn’t that what every generation says about the younger generation?), but as far as I am concerned, as long as there are people like my former neighbor/employee and current friend, hope for the future is alive and well! This young woman believes my spouse and I have helped her, and she is right, but what she may not realize is how much we have been helped by, and learned from, her.
When I was in my teens and early 20s I was told, one way or another, by “older” people (probably they were younger then than I am now) that they saw something in me that was different in their experience from other people my age. A few of these comments pertained to my being too smart to not continue to graduate school after college. I never quite knew how to react to these comments because I didn’t feel particularly special. Now that I am where they were, I understand both their comments about me and how one can see this about someone else – the neighbor mentioned by Melissa. I know we have tried to offer guidance and direction to her, what has been rewarding is that she has not only appreciated our advice, but has run with it to succeed in college and as an employee. While not forgetting our caution about hiring friends, we did so with her under pre-agreed conditions, one of which was that she would work for a year between college and graduate school of some sort. And, though there were the usual, and some unusual, work/expectation conflicts when she was working for us on a full time basis during that year, what reinforces our appreciation of this young lady is how she rose above the problems or challenges in direct contrast to our other employees who faced the same issues. And, I now more fully understand the rewards felt by teachers and mentors when one sees that rare “spark” in someone and is in a position to nudge, push, or shove, them along.