Usually in January I write a blog that is forward thinking – a new month, a new year, even a whole new decade this January! However, as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed recently I came upon a post that made me think of my childhood. I learned that my elementary and middle school librarian, fondly known as Mrs. J, had passed away. I graduated from high school over 30 years ago and she was near retirement at that time, so although we lost touch over the years I realized she must by now have been in her 90s. In thinking of her I thought of a life well-lived.
Our school was a small one in the middle of the Catskill Mountains. We only had about 600 students in all 13 grades and everyone knew everyone, which of course had its pros and cons. We saw Mrs. J every week for years as she was the only librarian from kindergarten through eighth grade. She took great care to get to know her students as individuals, learning what they were interested in and liked to read, and she would spend as much time as needed to help students pick out just the right book to take home with them for the week. This was way before Kindles and the internet and given that the nearest bookstore was an hour away, the school library was a complete delight for those of us who loved to read! I spent much of my childhood days reading and credit Mrs. J for helping me to develop this love. As I got older, I spent more time with Mrs. J as she became our high school class advisor and I was on the class board. She was a sounding board for everything, from resolving a conflict with a friend, to dealing with teenage angst over unrequited love, to deciding which college to attend. As I read through the many comments on Facebook from students who came before me and after, I realized that she had this personal touch and connection with many, many individuals and that she had changed all of our lives for the better. She went well beyond her job at the school and in doing so made an incredible difference in our community.
Thinking about Mrs. J reminded me, once again, that our work matters. What we do and how we choose to do it are important. The doctor who takes extra time and compassion in relaying a difficult diagnosis to a patient, the policy analyst who takes great care to craft policies that will ultimately benefit others, the sales consultant who makes sure the client gets just the right product to fit their needs. While we may all choose to pursue different career paths, we all have the ability to make the world a better place in our own unique way. Find a path that speaks to you and allows you to be a positive force for good in the world in a way that only you can… and rest in peace Mrs. J knowing that the world is a better place because of you.