Life Lessons from a Witch, a Teacher and a Little Dog, Too
by Diane Berenbaum
“I've heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason, bringing something we must learn. And, we are led to those who help us most to grow, if we let them.”
— Glinda, the Good Witch, in the Broadway show, “Wicked”
We meet a lot of people in our lifetime; some connections are long-lasting, and others are fleeting, but each one holds opportunities for reflection, learning and growth. Among these people, there are a select few who have truly opened our minds, challenged our thinking and made a difference in who we are today. Often times we overlook these people and the significance they have had on our life paths. I would like to take this opportunity to thank two such influencers who have opened my eyes and the eyes of loved ones around me.
A New Path and a New Lease on Life
After my husband graduated from high school in South Chicago, he took the path that his parents suggested - attend the local community college. It was there that he met Ms. Sherwood, an English teacher, who drastically altered the path of his life. After recognizing his talents and potential, she took him aside and told him that he did not belong at a community college; she recommended that he apply to an Ivy League school where he could be challenged far more than he ever could in Calumet City.
A family meeting was called to discuss Ms. Sherwood's recommendation. Interestingly enough, the focus of the discussion was not on which Ivy League school he should apply to, but on the application fee, “Is it worth spending $35 to see if Rudy can get into Yale? Think of what we could do with $35!” ($35 could go a long way in a steelworker's family in 1972.) By the end of the evening, it was agreed that Rudy deserved a shot. It was worth $35 to see if the first child in the family, not to mention the first person in the entire city, could get into an Ivy League school.
Rudy did get into Yale, which has definitely changed the path in his life. (Most importantly, he never would have met me if he didn't go there!) He owes it all to Ms. Sherwood who challenged his thinking about himself, opened his eyes to new possibilities, and gave him the confidence to take a risk.
Some of the Best Teachers are not People
Even though I have been acquainted with one particular friend for only six years, the result of our relationship has impacted my life in countless ways and has helped me grow to be a better person. Perhaps it will surprise you to learn that this relationship is not with a person, but rather with my dog, Rags.
This small wheaten terrier has made a big impact on my life. Here are just a few ways:
Before Rags, I was not a dog person. I couldn't understand why people owned dogs. If you asked my husband and son who talked me into getting Rags, they would say that a transformation has taken place – I am now a dog fanatic.
Being a proud dog owner has opened a whole new world to me that has yielded stronger connections and deeper friendships with neighbors. I have even become an expert on several dog-related topics, which comes in handy when meeting new people. Ask me how painter's tape and a towel will get your dog to stop jumping up on people when they come to your front door!)
Even if you've never liked dogs, you might be surprised by what they can teach you, if you let them. Here is a taste of their outlook on life, and food for thought on how we live our lives:
- Before Rags, I was not a morning person. Let's just say it took me a while to become “sociable” in the morning. I am now awakened by a fuzzy ball of energy whose entire body shakes as he wags his tail. He seems to be saying, “It is a beautiful day, it is great to see you and I am so glad that you are in my life!” My interpretation could be completely inaccurate, but it is hard to be miserable in the morning when greeted this way.
- Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
- Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
- When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
- Practice obedience.
- Take naps and stretch before rising.
- Run, romp and play daily.
- Eat with gusto and enthusiasm – stop when you've had enough.
- Be loyal.
- If what you need lays buried, dig until you find it.
- When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.
- Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
- When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
- And finally, delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
If you keep an open mind and a willing heart, you will be surprised at what you may learn and who is teaching you. Because of a furry 40 pound creature I have grown and changed for the better.
Opportunities for personal insight and growth abound. They can come from teachers, pets, lifelong friends, casual acquaintances, and even challenging customers. Yes, even customers can make a difference in how you view your day, if you let them. (Read my story about A MAGIC Transformation at the DMV to see how a customer made a drastic difference in a DMV associate's demeanor and actions.)
At the end of the Broadway show, “Wicked”, Glinda, the Good Witch, turns to her friend, Elphaba and states, “Because I knew you, I have been changed for the better and changed for good.” You may have had this kind of impact on someone and never realized it. Perhaps there has been someone in your life that has made this kind of impact on you. You might want to let them know that they have helped you to change for the better and change for the good (or just give them a good scratch behind the ears).
Learn Big Things from the Little Ones in Your Life
Diane Berenbaum is a long-time contributor and former editor of the MAGIC Service Newsletter. She has more than twenty-five years of experience as a consultant, coach, and facilitator. Diane is the co-author of How to Talk to Customers: Create a Great Impression Every Time with MAGIC® .