I don't know if you know this about me, but I spent most of my late teens, twenties and thirties working in food service. During that time, I spent about 18 of those years working for the fast food company that serves cardboard tacos and has a big purple bell as it's logo. It was one of my least favorite jobs (it did have it's moments, like anything) but I learned a ton about working with people, about getting work done through others, about leading by example and living with integrity. My time spent at the Bell shaped who I became, gave me the financial stability to live on my own, and for a while in the 1990's, allowed me to have a horse. It also taught me how to identify theft, how to deal with diversity (nothing like having two acknowledged skinhead men taking orders from an openly gay woman manager), how to go without sleep (longest shift worked was 56 hours) and how to smile in the face of irrational anger (exactly what do you expect from a 39 cent taco?). My time there also taught me the skills I needed to be successful working as a manager with other concepts, gave me a bone deep knowledge of food safety I still haven't eradicated from my soul, and made me very appreciative of a college degree.
I left the Bell in 1998, primarily because I knew that there was no way I could continue working between 60 and 70 hours a week and handle the physical stress of being pregnant. I was offered a job working as a manager of a pretzel store that existed to employ people with disabilities out at our airport. It paid a lot more than I was making at the time, would be an hourly position so any hours over 40 were paid as OT, and was not a 24 hour operation. I would never work later than about 10:30 pm, which seemed like a godsend at that point in my life. The motivating factor was my pending insemination and subsequent pregnancy. When I left that last day, I knew that no matter what, the Bell was forever in my rear view mirror.
Why am I rehashing this? Because of this week.
This week has been the most stressful week I have had in a very long time. It started with the surgery (which no matter how you look at it, putting your child under general anesthesia is terrifying) and Ashke's reinjury, then the slow process of recovery for both of them, the open house at the High School to get T prepared for his Junior year, and our first two days of school. My outlet for stress and exercise is broken at the moment, and although I do have an excuse to see my horse daily, it isn't the same as getting to ride.
Then the unexpected happened. T texted me from his first period of school and told me his English teacher used to be an employee of mine at the Bell. She told him that at the point she was working with me she was sixteen, homeless and had dropped out of High School. She told him that I taught her how to be a good manager and a great leader. And that I changed her life. She says that if it wasn't for me she would never have become a teacher or the manager of her department at the HS. She said one of the last conversations we had, I told her I was quitting so that I could get pregnant and have a child.
She is now teaching that child.
It's not often that we are given a glimpse into the impact we have on those around us. There are people in my past that I can point to and say "they influenced me in this way" but I had never turned that concept around and looked at the influence I might have had on someone else.
It is a humbling experience.
We all have the power to make things better for each other, or to make them infinitely worse. It reinforces the concept that we are all connected, that a kindness done to one, is a kindness done to all. In a year where hate and divisive rhetoric are ruling the airways and filling our social media feeds, being reminded of how easy it is to make a difference can be a profound and surreal experience.