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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Our Impact on Others

A Rainy Day by Nathaniel Landau 
The other day, Wednesday, April 30, I was walking across campus in a pouring rain. My Gore-Tex raincoat hood was raised around my head; rain dripped off its rim past my face.

Sound was muffled. I thought I heard "Goska! Goska!" but I am hearing impaired and I've learned to ignore it when I think I hear someone calling my name, writing it off as an auditory hallucination, the brain's attempt to create order out of constant tinnitus.

Suddenly a lovely young woman in long cornrows was standing to my left. I turned my head.

"Professor! I've been looking all over for you, for the longest time!"

"You have?"

"Yes! I just have to tell you how much you meant to me! That class ... that class was really something! You gave me ... something ... something I needed!"

She wasn't stating anything specific, just "something." But it was a very emphatic compliment, nonetheless.

I reached out and hugged her. It was a sopping wet hug.

We both resumed our divergent paths in the driving rain.

When I got home, I looked her up. It's been quite a while since she was my student.

Mm hm. Just as I suspected. She had not done well in my class at all ... she'd gotten a pretty low grade. She hadn't handed in all assignments. Her final work was not successful.

To me it was a reminder. We really never can be 100% sure of what's going on.

I do feel like -- heck I am -- a big, fat failure. Very few people read my writing. Fewer still buy my books. I don't have a tenure-track job and probably never will.

I tell my students from day one that they have to arrive on time and hand in work on time ... and many find me too demanding, too strict, and get low grades or fail.

This student did just that. She'd never given me positive feedback. As far as I knew, I had passed in and out of her life with no positive impact at all.

Except for that hug in the rain, hours before my Shroud talk, and her vague insistence that I had offered her "something," something that she needed.

Just because you are not hearing loud applause, doesn't mean you aren't having a positive impact on someone else.

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