Quiet Influence

Have you ever met someone who had such a strong influence on your life — but you didn’t realize it at the time?

I might’ve written about her before, but even if I have, I’m going to write about her again tonight.

During high school, I wrote a few articles for an OC version of the Los Angeles Times. It wasn’t anything big, but I ended up trying my hand at it because there was a woman who came to my high school journalism class and told each of us about the opportunity. At the time I was eyeing my upcoming college years and thought I wanted to major in journalism, so this seemed like a great opportunity to me. Better yet, I didn’t ever think I’d have anything published in high school, but when I did — and when the check came in the mail with a lovely handwritten thank you note from this woman — I was floored.

She didn’t have to run a journalistic endeavor aimed at teenage writers. She didn’t have to include any note with the check, and she didn’t have to handwrite it. She probably didn’t have to do a lot of things in life, but she had this vibe of being someone who just wanted to do, to inspire and to give people the nudge they perhaps didn’t realize they needed.

I’m writing about her [possibly again] tonight because she’s been on my mind a lot lately. I’d love to find her, and a month or two back, I thought I had. While I was home sick from work one day, I busted out my Blackberry and searched for her name on a professional networking site I’m part of. On that tiny handheld device, I could’ve sworn the text and the name that I was reading added to the same woman who I met once in high school, but today when I searched again during the lunch hour, I came up empty…the description and words that I found previously didn’t match her background.

I’m pretty determined to find her, as I’d like to tell her what an influence she had on my life. She might not care, but somehow I feel like she’d still appreciate hearing from people. While, yes, sometimes people do things because they want the recognition or praise in the end, others do things because they seem to be motivated by a greater good. And the latter is the feeling I got about this woman. I think many of the high school writers who she helped get published likely still feel this way about her to this day.

Today I am thankful for not only this woman who was briefly part of my life, but for the desire to reach find her, reach out and say thank you to her. I’m thankful for this desire on my part because, if I find her, I think — knowing the way the universe works — it just might come at the right time for her.

Or for me.

How often has someone appeared from your past at a time and provided a familiar shoulder to lean on, or patient ears to listen at just the right moment? How often have you put the pieces of the puzzle together and had the distinct feeling that, despite what others say, everything happens for a reason, in its own time and when it’s supposed to, and that nothing happens “just because”?

Without trying to bestow any negative happenings on anyone, maybe she’s been on my mind because she’s found herself wondering lately whether she’s ever had an effect on anyone. Maybe she’s wondering about her contribution to the world. Maybe she had children and something she’s experienced or gone through with them would resonate more — or be easier to deal with — if a person she once upon a time inspired came forward to say thank you.

Or maybe this is an exercise for me. Maybe it’s a test to see how far I’ll go to track down someone that I met once in person, but with whom I corresponded with just a few times only to have our brief interaction have a lasting effect on my life. Maybe it’s a test that’s meant to teach me about gratitude, or how to be verbally expressive instead of focusing so much on the written word. Maybe it’s meant to help me get back into the practice of saying thank you, or maybe this desire is meant, at the end of it all, to simply be a story to inspire others to reach out and, in our own unique, human way, say thank you to someone else in our life.

Whatever the reason, I am thankful for it. And I’ll let you know when I find her.

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