Several years ago, I was working at a company and the receptionist was a young lady who was forging her path for her future. She was establishing herself in an up-and-coming organization that was very keen on promoting from within and allowing one to go up the corporate ladder per se.
She was wide-eyed and the true definition of innocent. She was kind, sweet and I soon found myself in the position of being her mentor. A job that was right up my alley, for I believe that is what I do best, is to nurture others and try to bring out the champion within them.
As we got to know each other, she shared with me that her father had died a few years back, when she and her sibling were teens and that her mom was still having the hardest time and not able to cope with the loss of her husband. So much so, that the mom basically checked out.
She told me that one of her dad’s favorite sayings was: “Living The Dream.” I saw that there were decals on Amazon that you could buy with that saying, so I got her one. I’m a firm believer that tangible things are meaningful as they are gentle reminders of something special to the individual person. She loved it and put it on her car, which incidentally was her dad’s old truck.
Grief affects everyone differently. Losing a loved one is a terrible thing to have to go through. In my heart I couldn’t imagine what this entire family had been dealing with, but what I did know is that my co-worker needed a mother figure, someone she could trust. I was honored to take that role.
In addition to the hardship of what her family was enduring, she too was going through a bit of a rough patch with a friend, who in my humble opinion was more of a bully than a friend, and I offered my advice on that subject. I told her the bullies one meets on the schoolyard grow up to be the bullies as adults. It’s their nature. They feed off of the insecurities of others in order to prop themselves up. I said, “Try not to react to it, for that ‘reaction’ is what drives the bully to continue. They, after all, are the insecure ones with nothing to bring to the table other than their ego.”
One day, she left work and called my cell. She was crying and she told me she had been having a really hard day and didn’t know what to do. I told her to park the car, and gather herself, and to take a cleansing breath and when she was comfortable to drive, to get home safely. I let her know to call me if she needed to.
I knew firsthand about the importance of knowing someone was there for you. Whether you needed to talk with them or not, just to know you could was comforting. I myself had been there a few times in my life and in my opinion, there is nothing harder than feeling that you are all alone.
One day she and I were talking about what her goals were for the future. She shared with me that she’d always wanted to work with dolphins. In fact, she had a photo on her desk, and she showed me it, it was of picture of her in a swimming pool with two dolphins. It had been taken when she and her family were on vacation. I looked at it, and in the background, there were a few people sitting and watching. She told me that she had never really noticed that her dad was in fact one of those people sitting there. The photo was given to her as a souvenir from one of the staff members who worked at the resort.
I told her that this was such a significant moment. Her dad was watching over her and was in essence letting her know she should follow her dream, so she could be “living the dream.” She hugged me and thanked me, and in my heart I knew that the wheels were in motion for her to make some life decisions.
One night after a particularly busy day at work, I got home and texted her. “Hope you’re having a nice evening. I’m so proud of you, see you tomorrow.” She literally texted back in seconds saying that she had gotten home and her mom was basically ignoring her, and all she could do was cry so she had gone into her room and she saw my text. She was elated that at that very same moment, I had reached out. I was happy that I was giving her the support that was needed.
She eventually left the company to pursue her interests and to enroll in college. I was always comforted by the fact the family was financially OK and that she could do so without the added worry of how she would fund her education.
About a year later, I received a call from a potential employer who was considering hiring her; she had given my name as a reference. One of their concerns was how she was able to move so far away from home and did that make her someone who would be more in it for the short term. I said, “I think if you looked at it in a different way, such that a young lady who experienced a loss of a parent, being brave enough to move and go to college in another state to pursue her career, as incredible, then you would know that you are hiring the right person.”
I continued, “I can’t even imagine being able to do that, and I laud and applaud those who can.”
Needless to say, she got the job.
Over the years we kept in touch with an occasional text or via Facebook. One day, she messaged me saying she thought of me often and thanked me. Recently she was in town, and she surprised me with a visit. She ran over to me and hugged me and started to cry, thanking me for always being there. I told her I was so proud of her and her accomplishments. I asked how her mom was doing, and she told me they were getting along better than ever. I was happy to hear that.
As she was getting ready to leave, she said, “I couldn’t have done this without you.”
With tears welling up in my eyes, I held her close, and said, “Ah, of course you could have. All I did was show you how to ‘open the door’!”
Jennifer Danny is a Santa Clarita resident.