Read Time: 1 minute story
It rained hard one night last week. That evening, I was scheduled to make a presentation at a client board meeting. Between the rain and holiday traffic I was late. I arrived at the street door and repeatedly buzzed the receptionist to unlock the door and let me in. I could hear the signal but the door wouldn’t unlock. I was late, wet and annoyed. Down the stairs came a woman. Relief was in sight. In the dry lobby I thanked her for coming down three flights to open the door. This was her matter-of-fact reply;
‘I would do it all night long. This place saved my life.’
Her comment took me back. It was an ‘aha moment’ that made me forget about the time and my wet shoes. It was a kind of moment that I hope we all have the opportunity to experience.
Standing in the lobby, she told me her story.
Camille* (name changed for privacy) was raised by a single mother. She was a ‘good girl’. She was in her 20’s in the 1990’s when the crack cocaine epidemic was in full swing. Her boyfriend introduced her to crack and her life changed.
One day she and her boyfriend went to a food store. Her plan was to buy some food; his plan was to rob the store. Camille was arrested and spent the next 4 months on Rikers Island. She was released with no job, no money-and she was pregnant.
For the next two decades, this organization she loved would help her find housing, enroll her in drug counseling and recommend her for a part-time job. Now she gives back to the agency by volunteering at the desk when the paid receptionist in unavailable.
Camille’s daughter grew up with her mom, and upon graduating from high school, was awarded a full scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania. She graduated with honors this past May and now works in video production at the VH1 television network.
Many of us have heard, read or even experienced stories like this firsthand. They are in the New York Times ‘The Neediest Cases’ column weekly and on every social services website. Yet hearing her powerful story, first hand, at an unexpected time was, for me, a huge ‘aha moment’.
Camille’s story reconnected me with why I do what I do.
Thinking about why the encounter was so memorable I was reminded that “aha moments’ are everywhere. For all of us. Sometimes all we need to do is to slow down a half step, ask a few questions of those around us and listen to the answers.
As we move toward 2017, I extend the wish that the upcoming year is full of seeking out and reveling in unexpected and wonderful ‘aha moments’.
Thank you for being a dedicated reader,