Yesterday I walked over to the College of Business to work a shift at the Welcome Tent. The university sets up several of these around campus, food service stocks them with cookies and hot apple cider, and faculty volunteers staff them for the first couple of days of class, making returning and new students feel welcome and answering any questions they might have.
There were three faculty chatting at the table when I walked up. I greeted them, and the one I knew by name introduced me around to the others. "When I first started here," he said, "Donna bought me coffee and spent an hour talking with me. I've never forgotten it."
His reminiscence startled me. I had certainly forgotten it. But it came back to me. I had seen him at church, and gone over to say hello and introduce myself during the peace. He mentioned that he was new at UCA, and I emailed later to invite him to grab a cup of coffee and chat. Make him feel welcome, just like we were trying to do with the students that day. Answer his questions. And here he was, twelve and a half years later, telling these other faculty how much it meant to him.
I remember that impulse, to take some extra time to make sure someone sees a friendly face, has someone to listen to them. It's something that I was never consistent in doing, back in those early days, but occasionally the opportunity would arise and I would seize it. The busier I got, the higher-stakes every hour of my day seemed to be, the less I did that. I've been uncomfortably aware of how little time I've been willing to devote to such things in the past few years. One of my 2015 resolutions is to commit to them again -- to spend time with students and colleagues, to take advantage of those chances that come along to be the friendly face, the listening ear.
Thanks, Mark, for reminding me how much even a little time, a long time ago, can matter.