obstacles: did you create them or remove them today?

I found a young woman sitting in the hallway in front of my office.  I asked her if she was waiting for me, and she nodded her head.  I invited her into my office.  She came to see me for help regarding something that I know nothing about.  She had gone to see several people but they could not help her.  She was desperate.  Her teacher sent her to me.  They didn’t know who else to turn to.  I couldn’t believe the obstacles she was  facing as she tries to get a college degree so that she can improve her own life and the life of her whole family.

In my last posting, I talked about the importance of procedures and processes.  However, today, this student’s situation is making me think about the difference that a PERSON (not a step in the procedure or the process) can make in another person’s life.  Sometimes in a world where each of us are an ID number or an email address, there seems to be little room beyond the procedures, the process, and the protocols (which are all necessary and useful).  If one person cares, pays attention, looks deeper, thinks more creatively, and makes one more phone call… that could make a huge difference in someone’s life.  It takes a caring heart and a creative brain to remove obstacles.

At the end, I didn’t have the answers this student wanted.  I made some phone calls and  found someone who might be able to help her.  I guess this was the best I could do for her, but even now I’m not feeling entirely satisfied (and certainly I don’t think the student was satisfied though she seemed grateful  for my attempts to help).   As we talked, she kept getting choked up, and I knew she was swallowing the urge to cry.  I wished I could just pick up and remove that obstacle she was facing so that she could pursue her education.  But I couldn’t.

My encounter with this student made me think about how I might measure my day’s success or failure, and tonight I’m asking myself these questions:

Have I done anything today that put barriers or obstacles in someone else’s life?  Did I help someone’s life or did I do things (or fail to do things) that complicated someone else’s life?  Did I contribute to someone’s life or did I take away from someone’s life?  Did I exhaust all my resources before I gave up on someone?  Did I help someone breathe a little easier, smile a little broader, and walk a little taller? 

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