“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”
~ Albert Schweitzer
I wake gently from a dream, a vivid dream that is both terrifying and comforting, that comes with a message.
I am at my retirement celebration. It is a grand thing with a room full of people and a podium at the front for speeches, one of which I am expected to make–nothing like the simple celebration I chose to have when I actually retired.
I’m at the back of the very large room, next to a bank of lockers where the last of my work life ephemera is stored, packing things up. Somehow, in the process, I lose the papers that have my speech written on them. In a panic I go through the boxes again and again, searching in vain for the missing speech.
Unsuccessful, and out of time, I make my way to the front of the room. I take my seat next to coworkers and wait for my turn at the podium, my mind awhirl trying to remember what I had planned to say.
Suddenly, in the way scenes in dreams change instantly, I’m standing at the podium looking out over a sea of faces. I begin to speak: “Twenty-four years ago I was hired as a temporary computer programmer.”
As I continue, my words take on a life of their own and my prepared speech is forgotten as I talk about projects, places, and mostly people. (Why a room full of people would be interested in hearing about my career is a mystery.)
Still asleep, I become aware that I’m dreaming and enjoy the meandering walk through the past as I recall people I worked with over the years. Brightest among this sea of faces are two I met for the first time on the day I walked into the office and became a temporary computer programmer; two people who changed the trajectory of my life.
I surface toward wakefulness with these two still on my mind. I remember ordinary days and conversations, and how some lives are changed, not with pomp and ceremony and celebration, but through simple conversation and everyday interaction.
I feel a release of something I’ve been wrestling with as I remember, with gratitude, early days with these two sitting in the sunshine sipping cups of tea at break time, working alongside soaking up all they had to teach me about computer programming and, what I didn’t realize at the time, life.
I pray that someday it might be said of me that I was a light to someone like these two were for me–not with grandiosity but, in my own quiet way, through cups of tea (or coffee) and everyday life.