Saturday, August 02, 2014

Epiphany – Gratitude for the Chance to Touch a Life

I spent a couple of hours catching up with a former student yesterday at the funky Dandelion Communitea Café downtown. He’s just survived his first year of law school and is interning this summer here in town. He’s doing very well and is headed toward becoming a very fine attorney. As I often say to students like him, I’m quite proud of him but hardly surprised.

During the course of our conversation I mentioned how I increasingly feel like my work is largely meaningless, that I serve an impersonal factory process mass producing degrees. I told him that I increasingly wonder if I should do something else, something that would actually “make a difference in the world.” Meaningful Life is the Boomer National Anthem, after all.

His face clouded over. And very softly he replied, “You made a difference in my life. You were my mentor. I have greatly benefited from knowing you.”

My heart fell into my stomach at that moment. First of all, this was an enormous compliment coming from a very fine student, one of the best I’d ever taught. And, truth be told, I’ve taught a number of fine students.

But second, what I suddenly realized is how very ungrateful my comment must have sounded to this young man. Mentoring only occurs when students become willing to allow their mentors into their lives. They have to become vulnerable in that process, open to what their mentors offer them. That is hardly a small consideration for anyone, myself included. It is a major vote of confidence in the abilities and the character of the mentor.

For teachers like myself, mentoring is also a major gift. It allows us to offer our talents, skills and hopefully the wisdom of life experience to those we would assist in becoming all they can be. It also affirms those of us whose meaning in life is largely found by being willing to help others, affirmation that is hard to come by in virtually any form of public service today, especially higher education.

That is no small gift. And it is not something that should ever, EVER be taken for granted. And so I thank my young lawyer-in-training for turning the tables, becoming the teacher and teaching me a lesson I badly needed at this point in my life of intense introspection and questioning of my calling.

Thank you, my young friend (whom I have not identified here because I fear it may embarrass him). And I thank all of the students along the way who have allowed me entry into their lives and the opportunity to offer them whatever it is they might have found helpful on their own life journeys. 

Please do not think I have ever taken you for granted or discounted the time we have spent together. Truth be told, I am in your debt. And I will always be grateful for your own roles in my life.

The Rev. Harry Scott Coverston, J.D., M.Div., Ph.D.
Member, Florida Bar (inactive status)
Priest, Episcopal Church (Dio. of El Camino Real, CA)
Asst. Lecturer: Humanities, Religion, Philosophy of Law
Osceola Regional Campus, University of Central Florida, Kissimmee

 If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding.
Most things of value do not lend themselves to production in sound bytes. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think you are a talented teacher with a passion to teach, but the class i took with you you belittled my thoughts and didnt help me prosper because my beliefs did not agree with yours on a matter of who God was and the importance of the Bible. I think you are talented but you need to realize that not everyone has the beliefs you do... as a teacher i believe it would benefit you greatly to encourage students more in their writing and work online then to belittle their thoughts. you pushed me more then many teachers... not in the way you wanted me to see how you thought you were right and i was wrong--but to investigate my truth and challenge what you proposed to be different. You made me grow significantly closer to God and in my faith. I think that you should teach but everyone needs to evaluate how they are doing every now and then and see how to better themselves. you pride yourself on your familys teaching background and your history with it--you were designed to be a teacher but like this young man you wrote about... be an open mentor and influencer to ALL students not just the ones whose specific beliefs align with yours. You are talented so use it well!