As human beings, we never know when we make a connection with another human being. Unless, that other person lets us know through their words or behavior.
Yesterday, I was on a weekly conference call with a group of people who are all members of a group called The Good Men Project. When the topic came up about some people objecting to strictly men helping young boys and men to become better people, and how we were supposedly ignoring young girls and women in the process, I had to make a statement.
I proceeded to go on about a five-minute rant about how I made a connection with a young lady in a locked mental health unit in a hospital many years ago. I told about how this one girl came to my presentation in her bathrobe and pajamas. She had no reason to get dressed because she was depressed and suicidal.
This was back before the Internet and email. Two days after I visited that institution, I received a large manila envelope with letters from all the youth who had attended my ninety-minute presentation.
As it turned out, there was a two-page letter from this young lady who wrote she had tried to kill herself seven times, and because of my presentation she would never do it again! I have received letters like that both before and since that day. Now, I get emails from both young people and adults who are hurting and express themselves to me after only maybe hearing me for an hour. It always amazes me what people are willing to tell me after only meeting me briefly and listening to me speak for a short period of time!
I called the counselor who had arranged for my trip and told her of the girls letter. I am proud to say I return every letter or email I have ever received to the individual who has written me. In all the years I have been speaking, I have only received one hate email. In fact, I received two identical emails that day from two different students in a school I had been at two weeks prior to those Sunday afternoon emails. They were especially disturbing because they both had my photograph from my website defaced with a paint program, and the words, Your gay and a bitch. I wish you die and go to hell!
I must admit that scared me. The next day, I called the counselor from that school and told her of the incident. That is a whole other story, about how we dealt with that issue. I spend a good part of a chapter talking about it in my book, I Still Believe In Tomorrow. As I am prone to do, I am getting off topic. Please forgive me. Regular readers of my blog will understand my propensity to do that.
Back to the young lady: Through a series of phone calls with her counselor, and a couple conversations with the counselors from her high school who were friends of mine, we addressed her issues and she received some more psychological counseling. I had visited her home high school on numerous occasions; and the person who arranged for all the visits was one of her counselors who was very aware of her situation.
Then, about a year later, I was invited to the school where she had graduated that previous spring for a twenty-four hour lockdown of eighth-grade students coming in as freshmen in the fall. Unbeknownst to me, she was one of the graduates who was assisting the counselors in running this orientation.
I no sooner got into the building, when this attractive, well-dressed, young woman in a dress came running up to me, gave me a big hug, backed away, spread her arms out, and proclaimed, Look what you did!
I immediately asked, What do you mean?
Whereupon she explained, I am going to college, I got an apartment, I moved out of the abusive environment I was in, I've changed my name, I'm a new person, and I owe it all to you!
I said, I didn't do any of that. You did it. I just gave you the tools.
You should have seen the look on her face when she realized it was her and not me who had made the transformation to become the young woman she was today. It was one of those life-defining moments we all get on occasion.
The point of this whole post is to give you an example of how we can make a difference in someone's life and not even realize it. Something I said in that mental health unit affected that young woman so profoundly; she even went so far as to change her name!
As always, I welcome your comments.