Memories of Awe Episode 11

As Liz reflected on Professor McKown’s story of Antoine, she wondered how he decided about those he would support. Did he try to help everyone who came to him, or did he have some type of criteria? Earlier he mentioned his failures with the whatever students, but yet he still tried to help them. She decided to probe the question of how he decided who he decided to help.

LJ: I’ve thought about Antoine since our last meeting. I’m not sure that I would have been as supportive as you were. Obviously, your instincts were right. How did you decide Antoine was worth helping?

KMcK:  I didn’t.

LJ: What do you mean?

KMcK:  Long ago I decided to try to help anyone who came to me. Early in my career I got a very heartfelt thank you note from a former student thanking me for advice I had given her. She said that advice had made a profound difference in her life.

I remembered the student but not the advice I had given her. That’s when I realized that you can never know the impact you might have on someone. That impact could be good or bad. From that moment on, I tried to be supportive of anyone who asked for help.

LJ: But aren’t you tempted to just say no, I can’t help?

KMcK:  Let me tell you about George. He came to see me about halfway through the first semester of his freshman year. He had a problem with a girlfriend from back home, and she dumped him when she found out he had a girlfriend on campus. His campus girlfriend dumped him when she found out he had someone back home.

LJ: (Laughing) Now this is verging on Dear Abby territory.

KMcK:  Liz, one thing I hope you will learn from these stories is that there is always another chapter. George then told me that he hadn’t used any drugs since he started college. He realized that he was prone to using drugs, and his parents were alcoholics. The girlfriend problems were making it harder to not begin using drugs again. I was able to get him into a support group, and that seemed to help.

LJYou’re right. I shouldn’t have laughed until I knew the full story. What happened? Did George stay drug free?

KMcK:  Over Thanksgiving break I got an email from George. He had a dental emergency. His dentist wanted to give him a prescription for a pain killer. George wanted to tell me that he refused.

LJ: That’s wonderful. What a great story.

KMcK: There’s more. Every Christmas I get a card from George. It’s a picture of him, his wife, and his three children. Inside is a nice note confirming that he has remained drug free. And yes, the wife has remained the same over all these years.

LJ: Now I understand why you try to help everyone who comes to you.

KMcK:  If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go to the dentist office to have my teeth cleaned. I hate that.

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“Now you know the rest of the story.” – Paul Harvey (radio host)

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