This month I am saying goodbye to an amazing young woman and an extraordinary employee. Goodbyes are typically difficult for me and this one is especially so.
In less than two weeks, Miss Zoe, from our Youth Services Department will bid us sayonara and embark on a life-changing adventure for herself and the community that awaits her upcoming arrival. By the end of summer, Zoe will call Shimokitayama-mura, Japan, her new home as she turns her talents and energies to teaching English to school children there.
I can see her in the classroom, inspiring and delighting every one of them with her quiet magic, infectious smile and gracious demeanor. If I were a parent of a child in Japan or anywhere else in the world, I would want Zoe to be their teacher and role model.
So, Zoe, as I bid you goodbye, my heart is full of gratitude for all you’ve done for our children, teens and families this past year. And as your supervisor and friend, I offer you some unsolicited advice gleaned from my sixty-one years of life experiences and what I’ve chosen to learn from them:
Be yourself. In a world that is teeming with people trying hard to look, sound and pretend to be someone else, be who you are. Always.
Trust your gut. It’s never wrong.
Do the right thing. Work for kindness, justice and inclusiveness.
When people show you who they are, believe them. (Thank you, Maya Angelou, for these words.)
Listen to what people say, but believe what they do. (Thank you, Grandma, for these words.)
Hold on and let go. Dedicate your heart to knowing which to do when.
And finally, as you continue your great work with children, I give you words that have guided me throughout my forty-plus year career. They come from one of my lifetime mentors – Fred Rogers, from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. He dedicated his life to being an informed, loving, caring, tireless advocate for children, in a world where their unique needs are too frequently disregarded or minimalized. He said, “Anytime a decision needs to be made, please think of the children first. If you ever have anything to do with their food, their entertainment, their custody, their day or night care, their healthcare, their education … listen to the children. Learn about them. Learn from them. Think of the children first.”
Happy Trails, Zoe and ganbette-kudasai (good luck)!