Recently, I’d been in contact with a former intern at The Oregonian who now works as executive director for a nonprofit that advocates for people with mental illness. He sent me this email last Friday:
“Way, way back, during the first Persian Gulf War, I was an intern downtown when you worked the city desk. Quinton Smith was city editor, and I believe you were an assistant editor. It was winter, when the U.S. finally attacked.
“I had the fortunate opportunity to write a lengthy story on the financial health of Oregon’s nursing home industry as a home had just closed. You helped guide me through several drafts of that piece, which ran on the front page at the conclusion of my internship. It was a fantastic and formative experience for which I’m still grateful. Plus, I hung out with the likes of Dee Lane, Rick Bella, Dave Hogan and several other reporters to whom I owe a great deal for their willingness to coach me. Sure seemed like a last heyday of great general assignment writers.
“I thought it might be nice to share that memory with you as it’s a very pleasant memory for me. I still have that front page, framed, somewhere in the recesses of my basement.”
The following Monday I heard from another former intern on the opposite side of the country. Four years ago, I recruited her out of Long Island to come to Portland to work as a reporter for the summer. She’s now a photojournalist in Florida. She contacted me on Facebook:
“I meant to message you this – there was a passage in one of those many pieces reporters wrote about Ben Bradlee that reminded me of you and when I phone interviewed for The O internship. This is it: ‘There is a magic that is potent beyond human understanding when someone in a position of power extends himself or herself on your behalf, based on nothing more than a belief in your potential.’ ”
Receiving either one of those notes would have made my day. Receiving both on back-to-back workdays — a double affirmation, if you will — took my breath away.
How wonderful to know you’ve had a positive and lasting effect on someone.
It also made me think of this: Aren’t there an awful lot of people out there — mentors, co-workers, former bosses — who would also love to hear similar affirmations? Is there someone in your life who, even years later, would be delighted to learn of their impact? I’ll be giving that some thought myself. Hope to send a thank-you note or two myself before the week is through.
Image: Tim Milburn.com