Today is the first day back from a life changing experience. For the past week and a half I’ve been participating as a small group facilitator at ACUI’s (Association of College Unions International) I-LEAD program hosted this year in Manhattan, Kansas at Kansas State University.
I’ll be writing blog posts for days about this experience but I thought I’d start with a warm fuzzy that made me both laugh and cry.
To start, I share a story that we read as part of one of the final activities we did:
A wise man was taking a sunrise walk on the beach. in the distance he caught sight f a little girl who seemed to be dancing along the waves. As he got closer, he saw the little girl was picking up starfish from the sand and tossing them gently back into the ocean.
“What are you doing?” the wise man asked.
“The sun is coming up and the tide is going out; if I don’t throw them in, they’ll die,” said the girl.
“But little girl, there are miles and miles of beach with starfish all along it; you can’t possibly make a difference.”
The little girl bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it lovingly back into the ocean, past the breaking waves.
“It made a difference for that one.” she replied.
Over the past week, I was challenged in supporting students through the I-LEAD process with life journeys I would never have imagined and that have touched my heart. But one student in particular was a challenge. This individual really tried to resist the I-LEAD process.
However, during our good-bye activities the night before leaving, we read the above story and the individual who tried to resist the process shared why they did so and that they had planned to leave the second day, when they realized that I wouldn’t give up on them and that maybe they would stay. And them staying all came about because of the daily short notes of encouragement I left them and for being open and vulnerable with them about my own journey. (And while there were already tears being shed, there were more after this was shared).
Later that night we had commencement, and our group of students presented Kristen (my AMAZING co-facilitator) and I graduation cords with messages for each of us at the ends. As they presented their cords to us, they each spoke such touching words of affirmation. Among the words of affirmation, the student had had challenged the process of the I-LEAD process gave me the best compliment that many probably were confused by:
“Brian, bless your face, had it not been for you, I don’t know what this process would have been for me. You will always be my little girl.”
While the entire room busted out laughing, we in the FOL Family knew the powerful message behind it.
In the Student Affairs profession we always wonder what impact we have on our students and the communities we serve. And I’ve been doubting my ability to really make a difference in my students lives and in my work/ the field for a plethora of reasons. But this student’s hilarious but poignant message helped reaffirm so much in my life.
And while I may have been this student’s “little girl”; this student, Kristen my co-facilitator, along with each member of the Finding Y(our) Leadership small group family, and my facili-family from across the country are all my “little girls”. They reinvigorated, affirmed and reminded me that my work and drive (in its own quirky way) for this field is able to make a difference.
And to remind me of this, I kept one of the starfish decorations from our Finding Dory themed room to remind me that I can/ do make a difference.
Hope you enjoyed my first story from I-LEAD! Many more to come!
Until next time,
Peace, Love and Pandas!