Connect the dots…

“So you never know who you touch. You never know how or when you’ll have an impact, or how important your example can be to someone else” A hand to guide me; Denzel Washington.

While functioning as a substitute or guest teacher recently I had the opportunity to listen to a commencement speech given by the late Steve Jobs at Stanford University in 2005. Perhaps you have seen it previously. One of the points made by Jobs in that speech came clear to me only two days later.

In the 2005 speech Jobs spoke about a calligraphy class he had taken at Reed College many years prior while he was dropping in on courses there and living as a homeless person. The class was not required because he was not enrolled in a program at the time. In fact he had dropped out of college so as to not waste his adoptive parents limited savings on his unclear educational track. It was simply of interest to Jobs but he really couldn’t see the immediate application of the knowledge gained to his life at that time.

Fast forward to another time when Jobs was part of a team of aspiring young personal computer builders associated with the early days of Apple Computer. Jobs gave credit for the knowledge he used in the design of “Font” as coming from that calligraphy class some 30 years prior. The same Font design is in use by not only Apple computers, but nearly all computer systems to this day. The knowledge he gained from dropping in on a college course has had dramatic impact on nearly all written documents from computer systems in use today. Take a look at your word processor tool bar. You see the one identified as Font? That is what Job’s was speaking of.

With that back ground consider this. I have adopted the attitude that life is a lifelong learning opportunity for all. As such I enjoy reading everything of interest and of enrolling in community education courses. Like Job’s himself most times I cannot see the immediate application of what I am learning. I just pick topics and classes that interest me. Currently, I am enrolled in a creative writing course with emphasis on fiction at a local university. As such I have learned a little about the writing process including terms such as Protagonist, Antagonist, Character and Plot development being some of those. I even have a plot in mind to create my own fictional novel. Will I ever complete that? Maybe, but it’s all about the learning adventure for me so we will have to see what comes down the road.

Regardless, the point of this Tale is to describe what happened two days later after watching the Jobs commencement speech.
I was again substitute teaching a class in a different school within the same district. It was mid-level science course. At the conclusion of class we had about 4 minutes prior to the bell ringing. A young lady approached me and asked if she could ask me a question? She then began to describe a relationship between two people who had mutual feelings for the other but neither had the courage enough to tell. So, over time both went their separate ways never knowing of the others interest or what may have been had they known. I must admit I couldn’t figure out where this question was going but I stayed focused with her. As the description continued she used the term “Protagonist”. Because of my drop in class knowledge, I realized the young lady was an aspiring author and she was running a plot development idea past me for my opinion. In fact, I confirmed she was currently taking a middle school creative writing course of her own and the plot she had described was from that class.

I enjoyed discussing her plot line with her for the remaining short time we spoke. I encouraged her to continue to develop her interest and talent. We parted with me saying that she had a “Great idea for a story, stay with it.”

I am under no illusions here, I know that this use of my recently gained knowledge of writing doesn’t compare to the impact of the computer developer of our age and Font used today by nearly everyone. I just connected the dots as he described and was able to have a meaningful discussion and give encouragement to a young mind following a dream.

Impact, who knows? I don’t remember the young ladies name but I know her story plot line. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it again someday. Is it possible that she could be a young JK Rowling, Toni Morrison, or Jane Austin who stuck with the pursuit of a dream because a substitute teacher knew what she was talking about and told her to, “Stay with it.”?

It is a possibility because we never know who’s watching or where our influence may take them but sometimes the dots connect.

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