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Unexpected Gifts

posted: 12.22.11 by Andrea Lunsford

It’s the holiday season: I’ve read and responded to essays and projects, turned in my grades, and  sent gifts. I always write Happy New Year cards after the first of the year, so I can put off that pleasant task for another week or so. This year I am in northern California by the sea, and while I’ve been working steadily on a number of projects I’ve also been taking an hour or two every day to walk along the bluffs. Two days in a row I’ve seen whales spouting (yesterday a mama and baby swimming together), dolphins leaping, and sea lions and seals cavorting near the shore. This morning I watched as the resident great blue heron stood utterly still, looking for a mid-morning snack. So life is good.

And one of the reasons life is good is this:  I have just received an unexpected gift.  Yesterday, I received an email from a former student, a member of the tutor training course I used to teach who eventually became the head tutor coordinator. She had planned throughout her undergraduate years to become a doctor, sailed through the MCAT, and entered a prestigious med school. I heard from her once or twice over the years, and then yesterday I heard from her again, saying that she was struggling in her med school program, was thinking hard about whether medicine was really for her—was beginning to dream, in fact, of a career in teaching.

She wrote, “I was hoping maybe I could talk to you about some things that I can’t really talk about with my colleagues or my friends and family.” In doing so, she surprised me with a deeply valued gift, the gift of trust. We will talk later today and I will listen as hard as I possibly can, will talk with her about what a life of teaching is like and about the options she sees before her, will offer advice if it feels right.

And I will thank her for giving me the best gift of this holiday season.

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