When I was in college I was fortunate enough to be required to take counseling courses. Even more fortunate, was that somehow all of the classes I took were taught by one professor. Although there were numerous professors in the counseling department, I somehow kept ending up with the department chair, Dr. Michael Dittman.
Up to a point, Mike led a pretty charmed life. He was a Rhodes Scholarship recipient who studied at Oxford and various other colleges in the U.S and abroad, earing his PhD in Counseling. He was immensely popular as a speaker and musician and enjoyed all of the attention his talents brought him. Then one morning, after his workout, Mike was in the locker room of his local health club and dropped to the floor. An aneurism hit his brain and Mike was never to be the same in one sense, but was to be much better in another sense.
When Mike eventually recovered he was blind in one eye, deaf in one ear and his mouth was deformed. One side of his body did not work anymore so he went through extensive physical therapy to re-learn how to walk and talk. He could no longer sing and play any instruments or captivate people with his physical talents. What Mike could do was teach and that he did. He taught what was real, not what was theoretical. He shared from his years of experieince and made his students understand that compassion and love are the universal needs of all people.
Mike and his wife Pam have a unique "practice". They work with very well known people who have messed up real bad, fallen from grace and whose lives are in ruins. Mike and Pam bring these people and thier families into the Dittman home and immerse them in what love and compassion look like. THey may stay a few days or a few weeks. It all depends on what the need is.
One day, Mike was talking before class about his son who wanted to become a pilot. He had just finished high school and was getting somewhat rebellious. He wanted to go to one college while his parents thought there some better schools for what he wanted. Then Mike made this statement, "Whatever school he goes to, I hope he finds someone who will make a good impression on him." This blew me away, Here was a guy who helped people from all over the world put their shattered lives back together and he was hoping someone else would be a good influence on his son. I said to him, "With all you do, doesn't your son see it?" He said, "To my son I am just dad, he is to the point where he won't listen to me, but he will listen to someone else who is not me."
This made me think back to my own teen-age years. I was very fortuante to have Pat and April Maska as my surrogate parents, as were so many teens in West Deptford. What my own parents couldn't tell me because I refused to listen, April and Mr. Maska could.
The blessing? Mike knew, much like my parents, that their comes a point when your kids may stop listening. If and when that points comes, don't get bitter, don't get angry, just know that the example you have set through out their lives will guide them to people who will have the same character and who will be heard. Trust the fondation you laid and allow others to build upon it.