I interviewed a candidate at my job a while back. As I talked to him, I was humbled. He was a super smart guy with an MBA from a well respected school, but that wasn’t it. He was quite personable and articulate, but that wasn’t it either. He previously served in the armed forces. Part of his responsibilities were overseeing reconstruction work in Afghanistan. I probed him with questions to determine if he would be up to the tasks the role he was interviewing for required. His answers elicited a bifurcated response from me. The first was an analytical one of the interviewer assessing the specific examples and details in his answers to determine if they indicated the skills and aptitude to transition into this civilian position. The second was awe. Here was a twenty something who was an instrumental part of building schools for girls half way around the world which would afford them their first opportunity at a better future. He assisting in rebuilding village infrastructure for people who had become accustomed to living without these basic services.
After the interview, I returned to my office and reflected. I have a good job and like what I do. But is it important in the big scheme of things? Does what I do matter? Have I made a positive difference in the world? These questions hung in the air. A friend, who also happened to work with me at the time, stopped by to talk about a work issue. I mentioned to him what I was thinking. He is involved with non profits as I am. (the family is pictured on our trip to visit our first Ethiopia Reads Library) And I know he also is concerned about the larger impact he has. He listened to me describe the interview and my reflections. There was a momentary, what seemed to me, lengthy pause. I wasn’t sure what to think. Then he responded, “I don’t know if this means anything to you, but you made a big difference in my life.” I told him it does truly mean something to me. And he walked away. After he was out of sight, I let my eyes fill with the tears I had been holding back at his words. His direct statement took my breath away. It was so powerful in that moment. In his simple words, he affirmed me.
(First version published on WorkingMother.com)