“How do you treat those who can neither help nor hurt you?”
In my life I have been privileged and blessed to have people who have went out of their way to support me. Sometimes, I have even had complete strangers do this.
Six years ago when I arrived in Missoula, Montana, I was a college freshmen who knew absolutely no one and had done nothing to make a mark in the community. I was a complete nobody. Starting the first day of school that freshmen year and actually going through the end of my senior year, I would get up at around 5:15am each morning and go to the gym on campus to work out. The first week it became obvious that I shared a workout schedule with a guy probably in his early forties. This guy was motivated, in shape, and good looking. Not only did we share the same workout schedule, but we also had lockers right next to each other. I am pretty sure I had “freshmen loser” written right across my forehead but it did not stop him from greeting me each day as we got ready to work out. We would then go to the upstairs of the gym and I would do my weights and running while he would do spinning and other cardio centered exercises. It seemed like we would always finish our workouts at the same time and while we were changing we would talk about what we had on tap for the day. He would then always wish me a great morning.
Through our conversations I learned that he taught in the journalism program. What he never told me though was that he was actually a very successful, prominent journalism professor on campus. I probably realized this about half way through my freshmen year. It really helped having his presence my initial year at The University of Montana. I got to talk each day with a positive, successful guy who had a huge influence on campus but a miniscule ego. I learned a lot from him, he seemed to give me balance during a crazy freshman year.
My sophomore year we had our same lockers and our same workout schedules and we continued to talk daily. Because of the person I am and because he had a vested interest in it as well, many of our conversations centered on sports. We talked about other things as well such as current events and the University. As I was still young, he still gave me guidance and a person to look up to. You would think he would get sick of talking to students, especially ones who had proven absolutely nothing yet…but he acted as if it did.
Come my junior and senior years, we no longer had lockers next to each other. In fact, we did not even have the opportunity to talk daily, as it turned more into a weekly thing. But when we did see each other, he would always greet me (always calling me by name) and check up on me, asking me about school and the various activities I was in. Keep in mind, I was never a journalism student, I was far from it, but he didn’t care.
I graduated from college and was hired on by Grizzly Athletics. My workout schedule changed greatly as I went from a morning person to an evening person. I would see him on rare occasions, not always at the gym. Because some people think I know what I am talking about when it comes to social media and marketing, I sometimes give presentations to groups on campus. A couple times I presented in the new journalism building and both times I ran into him. One time he was just coming into the classroom that I had given the presentation in and he gave me a quizzical look…of course I couldn’t exist anywhere besides the gym (I felt the same way about him!). We talked briefly and that was that.
Last Friday I saw him at the gym. I was walking down the stairs to the locker room and he called out my name. I looked back and saw my supporter. We talked for about ten minutes catching up on everything. I told him about my new position at work and he was ecstatic. I asked him about his kids. It was great. I didn’t have the guts to tell him how much he meant to me those initial couple years or how much I respected him. I didn’t have the guts to tell him how much he has influenced me to try to act the same way he did to some other young kid who might be a little unsure of himself and his future. I hope to someday though. Until then, he has this blog post. Don’t Blink.