A few months ago, I was invited to dinner in Lawrence, Kansas, a town about 45 minutes from my home, by two students, Alex and Hannah, at the University of Kansas. I had met both women before at Networking seminars that I had given for an organization they belong to at the school. There was no particular agenda for the evening. We talked about their career aspirations, what they planned to do upon graduation, how they had engaged a broad network of contacts to consider their professional options (of course, I puffed like a proud peacock since they were putting Coffee Lunch Coffee principles to practice!). They even asked me about my career path, what my future goals entailed and wondered how they could help me. I was touched, impressed and delighted to be there. We had a lovely time. When the bill came, there was no question in my mind that I would pick up the tab. They protested. I insisted (and won!). What an honor it was to do so.
Over the past few days, Marc, Ian and I have been in Bentonville, Arkansas, for a quick spring break road trip to see the beautiful Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (I highly recommend it – and the 21C Museum Hotel – for anyone inclined to make the trip). While here, we drove the 20 miles or so to Fayetteville, home of the University of Arkansas, where my friend’s daughter, Sloane, attends school. We grabbed dinner, visited about school, her spring break plans, the internship opportunities she is pursuing, etc. I love this young woman and it was a sincere treat to spend time with her. Again, check came and, again, there was no question that we would treat her to dinner. It was my privilege.
Please know, this is not a sign of me bragging or waving around my wallet. This is a small way for me to take care of young people who are getting ready to make their way in the world. I remember fondly how so many people took care of me when I was in their position. When I was a student in Massachusetts… when I was a young banker in NYC… people would come to visit – some who I knew well, others who I knew peripherally through friends and family… they would come to collect me from my dorm or apartment, they would treat me to dinner, they would ask me how things were going for me at school or in my new profession. I felt so well cared for.
For example, I remember Debbie and Alan caring for me. This is a couple who I have known for most of my life, from my home town, who I have always, always looked up to and admired. Debbie is also a Smith alumna who had reason to return to the College from time to time for meetings. Never did she forget that I was on campus during those years. Whenever they came to town, they always let me know with plenty of advanced notice. They always invited me to dinners and special events/activities they were attending. How nice to be included and nurtured. I remember Terry and Lance doing the same. There was also Karen, and there was Cheryl, too. Many others, as well.
Now, when I look back, that same warm feeling comes to me and a smile adorns my face. I remember feeling so loved and well cared for – I still feel loved and well cared for today. And, I hope that Alex and Hannah and Sloane feel loved and well cared for, too. (And, serious props to Sloane… when we arrived at the restaurant, she handed Ian a gift bag containing a University of Arkansas t-shirt… she is already caring for other younger people! We were all so touched by her thoughtfulness!)
My encouragement to anyone who can relate to this story – or who wishes someone would have cared for them when they were in similar circumstances – will consider reaching out to a young person and offering them just a little bit of care. It doesn’t have to be a meal or an event. Not even a t-shirt. All those things are great, but it could simply be a phone call or a note, a bit of advice or a connection to someone meaningful. I guarantee whatever amount of effort you put forth will make you feel great and will be remembered and appreciated forever.