I’ve previously talked about those moments which let me know that what I’m doing for a living actually matters. Those moments are some of my favorite things. I love the feeling of knowing without a doubt that my work had a positive impact on the life of another person. Much of what we do in life is ultimately meaningless, so it’s nice when something actually has value.
Sometimes these moments happen frequently and in bursts. Sometimes they’re few and far between. To be honest, it’s been a while since one has come along. That changed this morning.
Today I had the opportunity to do a speaking engagement at the 23rd Annual Arizona Out-of-School Time Conference, which was hosted at the Phoenix Convention Center. I presented a breakout session on the topic of bullying prevention.
The presentation went very well, and I received very positive feedback from those in attendance, including one woman who recently moved here from Russia. She gave me very sincere thanks and shook my hand twice. Another person told me that the presentation completely changed her perspective on bullying and made her feel “empowered.” Someone else called the session ‘Great’ on Twitter.
However, the most impactful moment of the day happened as I was heading to my session.
I had just navigated through a swarm of humanity in one of the convention center’s hallways. I felt like the proverbial salmon swimming upstream through a river full of vendors attempting to lure in attendees to their booths with brightly colored convention swag. There was even one vendor with a giant live owl perched on her arm. I’m not even joking.
As I rounded a corner looking for Room 127C, a young man a few feet ahead of me made eye contact with me and smiled. “You’re Shane, aren’t you?” he asked. “Yes. That’s me,” I replied.
“I’m James. A couple months ago you spoke at the Boys & Girls Club where I work.”
“I remember. I talked with you guys about depression, suicide, and self-injury Did you like the presentation?”
“Yes. A lot. Actually, I already used what you taught us. A week after you came by, I noticed some of the warning signs you mentioned, so I started paying closer attention and even asked some questions. It turns out that a girl at our location was cutting.”
“Were you able to help?”
“Yes, I did. We got her help. She’s starting to do a lot better. I’m glad I knew what to do. Thanks.”
And with that, any doubts I may have had about the point of what I’m doing were once again silenced. I’m grateful to get the chance to do what I do.