One of the toughest lessons in my life has been learning when I have made a difference and when I have left my mark on the world. As I am never going to have kids of my own the question I have struggled with for years is what I will be able to leave behind. For the past few years I found myself passing my mid 50’s and was still trying to find my place, what could I do to make a difference.
In my life I have written papers, done research, contributed in small ways, but I was always still stressed because I was not making a difference. Sometimes one’s perception is not the same as reality. We spend so much of our time getting ahead, first college (perhaps trade school), we then move onto our first, second, third, fourth job, finally a career. Maybe a career change or two along the way, but we never seem to look back to evaluate.
One weekend in the middle of September I was in Pennsylvania with a Sunday off, which is a rarity while I am traveling. I knew all week what I was going to do with my Sunday. It was time to go home. Home, to Hershey, PA and the Milton Hershey School, the place where I believe I grew up and it shaped my life. Not it, but the people connected with it. I totally forgot about COVID lockdowns as I had really hoped to find a few people that I wanted to find. But, I am so glad that I went anyways.
Remember what I said above, the people that made a difference and allowed me to grow up and become who I am today. What I realized as I toured the campus, some of my old hangouts is that I have made a difference. I thought about some classmates, a few people that I hung around with while at Hershey, and I have wondered what has happened to them. I know a few that have already passed away, I know a few that are doing really well, and I have never heard from a number of them.
But, what I really would like to know is whatever happened to some of the adults that made such a difference. I have written a long overdue thank you letter to one person, I hope the school will pass it on, but others? I don’t even know where to begin.
So, what does my voyage to the past have to do with making a difference and leaving something behind? Easy, as I stood there thinking about those that have made a difference in my life, I could not help but think about the 100’s of HVAC/R students that I directly provided instruction in a hands-on trade that no one can ever take away. I can’t help but think about the thousands of students that in one way or another I touched their lives. I gave them the base, the instructors I supervised provided a foundation, the curriculum I wrote provided a base for the instruction, and so much more. Then with the advent of COVID the procedures and design fo the blended learning and remote instruction made it possible to continue their education from remote. Then in less than a year I directly provided instruction to close to 500 online students as we were all struggling to come to grips with some new realities.
That morning, while standing in the middle of the quad, in the middle of the Senior Hall campus, I suddenly realized that I had made a difference. Now I can focus on my life and my small family rather than continue to worry about making a difference, and stressing over what I was leaving behind. I have already left a lot of myself behind.