Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Chance Encounters

For listening to the stories of others ... is a kind of water that breaks the fever of our isolation. If we listen closely enough, we are soothed into remembering our common name.  - Mark Nepo

I am most thankful to two recent reminders that I am on the right path even though I struggle. The first was a touching note from a woman who I met only briefly and did not even know her name. When I began reading the note, it took me a minute to even recall our encounter. I am not sure how she tracked me down. I suspect someone from Dominick's helped since this is where the we "met."

I was in a hurry, running late, and just a tad annoyed, but the child sitting on the floor sobbing just couldn't be ignored. I sat down next to him, "How can I help?" "No one will listen to me." "That's not quite true. I'll listen." And I did. Robert, "not Bob and definitely not Bobby," had just lost his best friend to a move and he was sure that he would never find another one. I asked him to share his favorite memory of his friend and was promptly corrected "best friend." And so I listened to all the adventures they squeezed into their last day together. Next I ask him to share all the things he loved about his friend and was  impressed by the long list of attributes including his best friend's amazing ability to fart on demand which "always made me laugh." Next I asked if he knew anyone else that might have some of the same qualities and he paused and thought a while until a big smile appeared on his face.

Just so you know Robert's mother was struggling with a toddler, obviously not feeling well and dealing with some issue with the pharmacist. As I was leaving, she thanked me. Robert's parting gift to me was given as a comment to his mom, "Can you believe it she's a grown up!" I took that as a compliment.

We all want to be heard.

We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to , worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. - e.e. cummings

The next was a former student, Amy Wilson Cavaness, who reached out to me via Facebook. She will never know how much this was appreciated and how much her reaching out was needed. I was seriously considering giving up teaching.

"Hi Karen, Do you remember me from the quilt shop in Lisle? I made my first landscape/memory collage wallhanging and you loved it and told me, "you are an ARTIST!" It really made an impact on me and now I am having some success in various aspects of my artistry with fabric! I have a thriving online commission business and am being published regularly in various Stampington Press magazines. I moved about an hour southwest of Naperville, to Marseilles. I have loved watching your growth and success, too. Just thought I'd say "hi!"" Of course, I remembered her.

"I didn't actually say "thank you" in my previous message, but that was my intent. I'm sure you didn't think too much about it---you never know what little things we say to others can have such a big impact. I WANTED to be an artist.....didn't know how to get there...but your comment (coming from a professional artist) was the first real affirmation that I'd received in terms of being an "artist." Now my kids are grown and that's my identity!  I hope to see you at some event or show soon."

I think this is the greatest compliment a teacher can receive and it inspires me to continue teaching and sharing.

We all need to be acknowledged.

The reminder of these encounters is giving me food for thought and helping me set my goals for 2014. I am so thankful. Hoping 2014 brings you lots of growth and wonderful reminders.


  1. Happy new year Karen! I think you have a wonderful effect on people...your thoughtfulness and intentionality shines through. Happy new year, and thanks for reminding me how important it is to create opportunities for people to share - and to listen!

    1. You are most kind. I was so sadden to hear of the demise of the Neighborhood Writing Alliance. A true loss of so many. Hope you are well.


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