There are times when you dislike a person on sight and this was one of those times.
Thin, tall, beautiful, irritable. Scowled when I asked for a bit more room on the bench, to accommodate family and coats.
"What a bitch," I thought. In quotes because so loudly it seemed out loud.
We shuffled and waited and did not look forward to the speech.
We did not know she was going to be the speaker.
"I want to tell you a personal story today," she began. "My mother was my advocate and champion."
She went on to tell us about her humble life. What it was like to be alone with a single mother, whose joy was to run up and down the hallways of their apartment building, telling everyone who would listen that her daughter got into a state school.
The young woman came down here alone and friendless. She fought her way forward for four years. They bonded over food and studied all night and forced each other to make it to their finals on time.
And then she did something she did not have to do. Which was to become a resident advisor for several years, mothering the other students who had come to school alone.
This young woman worked so hard and was so capable she got an internship at a large and reputable firm. Which kept her on and hired her, starting right away after graduation.
"Suddenly, last year, my mother died," she concluded her speech. "I was at the bottom. But my family at school held me through all the pain."
And then I looked at the girl again. I looked at her with different eyes, not the cold and hard eyes of a stranger.
I looked at the girl through the eyes of a mother who was there to watch her own child graduate, who had taken that child for granted too many times.
Who had judged this child badly for no reason other than how she appeared briefly, from a glance or a couple of words.
And I sobbed, with my husband, for the victory and the pain that comes with growing up and seeing one's child grow up. And turned around to wish the people behind me, "Congratulations."
We ought to lead with love more, we ought to look at other people through the eyes of love.
We don't know what they have suffered...the immense struggle it takes them just to show up at work in the morning.
Or what it took to get them up in the first place.
All opinions my own. Photo by WilB / Flickr.