Friday, May 19, 2006

Giving thanks where it's due

After reminiscing with my friend Sheila about instructors and staff at the Junior College we attended in Santa Rosa, tonight I sent the following e-mail to my former academic counselor:
Karen, I have no idea if you remember me (frankly I'd be surprised if you did, it's been so many years).

I attended SRJC in 91-93 (roughly in there). I was a floundering art major who didn't plan on going to University until you got in my business about it. I think I met you initially because I was friends with a girl (XX) who had attempted suicide and you were her academic counselor. So I went to talk to you to let you know she'd be missing classes and you were the first person who asked how
I was doing about the whole thing! So I started going to you for my academic counseling.

Anyway, you were pretty much the only person encouraging me to continue my education. My parents were fundamentalist Christians who didn't believe in helping me financially with school (they didn't think I should go, and had said that if God wanted me to go, he would provide). Needless to say, it was a real struggle for me to even find it within myself to complete the process for loans and pursue a transfer to one of the UCs. But you encouraged me and helped me to fill out all the paperwork and get the transfer agreement process started.

It had honestly never occurred to me that I might be good enough to go to a University or even a State college--I had never even taken the SATs or planned on getting a degree (I remember you saying "you have a 3.9're smart!"). I truly didn't think I would ever be able to do that. I ended up graduating with honors, too, in 1995, in spite of a lot of family problems during that time. I really have you to thank for it.

I recently had the opportunity to walk around SRJC while on a visit back to CA (I live in Denver now). I thought of you, of course, and wondered if you were still there, or if I could find your info to thank you. Anyway, I know you may feel you've got a thankless job sometimes, but I just want to let you know you changed my life.

Thank you


If you're reading this and you have the chance to touch the life of a student, remember that you have no idea the difference a little encouragement could make.

(I'll also add that while she probably thought my year spent at the Bible college was a waste, and couldn't understand how my parents could take the stance they did, she never let that color her judgment or how she spoke to me about them. She didn't understand it or my faith, but she respected that I wasn't at a place where I was able to fully question the reality in which I'd been raised. I really appreciate her for that. Sometimes it's not in someone's best interests to try to shake all their foundations loose; sometimes all that's needed is a nudge in the right direction--they'll figure it out over time at the pace that's right for them.)


  1. O.k. I'm not a groupie, I promise. :-) Your stories resonate in me, too.

    It's interesting that we are both Bible college alums and both went to a community college. Some of the professors who have influenced my life the most were at community college.

    As a teacher, I appreciate your thoughts. It's a much needed to reminder to never let encouragement go unspoken.

    Christine, thank you for writing. Thank you for sharing your life with those who walk a similar path.

  2. Ok, I am a groupie...and I so value how you search and find in your life moments and people that influenced you for good as you also honestly assess the negative influences that nearly destroyed you.

    Giving thanks, yeah, that feels good to me. At this conference I just attended in DC I just met Christian De La Huerta who wrote Coming Out Spiritually, which helped me so much in my own coming out process. I nearly didn't say anything because of my shyness, but I ultimately did. He was so appreciative that his words made a difference.

    Thank you Christine for modeling truth, compassion and thankfulness.

  3. Wow, wow, wow. That was beautiful. I'm thankful to Karen, too, because she helped save your life and make you what you are. I also think it's fantastic that she kept her focus good and tight, on your real and present needs, and didn't heap judgement on you. Maybe she saw that you'd had more than enough of that.

  4. ahhh, thanks so much you all. I am so glad that each of you are in my life as well.