On a picture perfect fall morning, I sat in a coffee shop with a wanderer sitting before me. Most freshmen tell me a formulaic story of a nice Jewish family, reflective high school thoughts, questions that now live in their hearts as four years sit before them. Of course, deviations abound – divorces, Christmas trees, loss, once-in-a-lifetime moments. If I’ve learned anything in my job, it’s that everyone has a story to tell.
I felt no different this week, sitting with C. He had written to me about an unrelated request and my biases and downfalls almost did me in – without a Jewish name, I assumed he wasn’t part of my ‘target market’ (note to the non-Jews of GW: I still LOVE connecting with you, too). But then, in the way meant-to-be-things tend to happen if your eyes are open to them, another student told me I was wrong: don’t be fooled by the name. C. has a Jewish soul.
So C. and I chatted, over coffee (mine) and OJ (his), with light streaming through the coffee shop window. Raised in one place, swept away to another international location, thrown into an environment that never felt quite right. This fact, combined with the messy divorce of his parents as a teenager, led him to realize something had to be DONE to escape a reality that didn’t suit him. Drugs seemed a great option, he told his father. Or maybe running away?
His father’s reply? ‘Skip the drugs, son. Let me help you run away.’
All of us have gifts we want to offer the world – but we choose which of those gifts get utilized. I could teach someone to swim but I don’t particularly like the pool. As a parent, I have many things I’d like to give my daughter – freedom to leave my home as a teenager isn’t necessarily one of them. Yet C.’s father undoubtedly knew that the best gift he may be able to give to his son wasn’t necessarily the one he wanted to give.
What gifts might others need from you, even if it’s not always easy to give them? And for those around you who struggle, how can you help them do the running they need to do to become whole again?