Traces

Today was my coworker’s last day before she heads off to a well-deserved retirement. The official countdown began a couple of months ago, building in anticipation until today. A day of great joy for my friend, but a bittersweet moment for the rest of us. Farewells are never easy.

This anticipation of saying goodbye to a friend started me thinking about the things left behind when relationships end or change. What impressions – or traces – are left by those who are no longer around?

In regards to my newly retired coworker, she leaves behind a legacy of kindness and compassion. She is one of the kindest people I know, and I will forever be grateful for the privilege of working alongside her even for such a short time.

There are others, of course, who have left traces of themselves behind. The obvious ones like parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins. I am who I am today because of the foundation these key people laid for my life.

There the less obvious ones. Like the girl in eighth grade who took a chance on the new girl, the painfully shy one who was probably a little bit odd. She showed me what it was to be a little wild. And though we’ve moved on, her friendship still means the world to me.

The college roommate who became a lifelong friend. She taught me what it means to share space with another. Her faith in me helped me to climb out of the self imposed shell I’d created for myself years before.

And still there were others…

The young woman from India who became a college roommate and cherished friend. She opened my tiny experience and showed me a global perspective. She is a far better friend than I ever deserved.

Or the girl in middle school born without arms who taught me that friends come in all shapes and sizes.

The high school English teacher who tried to get me to challenge myself, and reach beyond “just enough” for something greater. I wish I’d listened to him at the time.

The uncle who believed in me enough to tell me he would read my truly terrible first novel.

The list could go on. Employers, coworkers, classmates, teachers, neighbors, youth group leaders, pastors and Sunday School teachers.

For every relationship by birth or by choice, I am grateful. Every chance encounter that has left its mark on my life. Not all of the traces left are positive. But I’m grateful even for the negative ones, as they have hopefully left me a stronger person.

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