Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My Hostie

Let me tell you about this girl I know. She's kind of a big deal.

This past weekend, the Hubs and I got to spend a few hours with my "host cadet" from The Citadel. Granted, she's since graduated and is in her second year of the Masters Program in Homeland Security (told you she was a big deal), but to me, she'll always be my little hostie. Without her family in Charleston, and after getting to know her as her boss on campus, I quickly knew that this girl would be way more than an employee to me. She became a friend and someone who I hope will be in my life for a very long time. She's the only text that I get on Mother's Day that says "Happy Mother's Day, Host Mom" and it makes me beam every time. She's just one of those people who you feel lucky to know.

I'll never forget the moment when we crossed the line from boss and employee to host mom and hostie. I had a cubicle back then and she came to me one summer afternoon to let me know that she may have to drop a class or two that fall due to financial aid issues which could effect her work with us. I unknowingly asked if there was any way that her parents could help cover the tuition fees. In my little bubble of the world, parents footed most of the bills for education costs so that was my immediate and very na├»ve suggestion. She politely informed me that she didn't have parents in her life and I realized that although I worked with her on a daily basis, I never really knew her like I thought I did.

As she began to share her story with me over the next hour, I slowly sank further into my chair and fought off tears for about 75% of the conversation. Actually, I'm pretty sure I wasn't able to fight all of them off, but I tried. This kid, who in my mind had it all together, had in reality come out of some pretty terrible situations. She had gone through more in her 19 years than most of us will ever experience and it broke my heart to pieces. I remember thinking "how are you this well adjusted?? How are you in college right now?? How do you laugh all the time and crack jokes, when I just want to cry for you and the things you've been through?? How have you gone on after facing so much loss at your age??" And yet, she shared her story calmly and without blame, resentment or bitterness for the stuff that she's lived. I was in awe.

In that hour, she transitioned from someone who I had hoped would learn something from me and my humble leadership within the office, to someone who I knew I was going to learn a lot from about determination, motivation, and having a good heart. I'm still learning from her. And in those moment, I also knew that I wanted to be just a small part of her support team as she moved forward to do great things. This girl deserved a few champions on her side.

I've since gotten to watch her receive her Citadel ring and then graduate from college, and I'd love to be there as she graduates with her Masters. She was able to attend our wedding reception in Illinois and I was so thankful to have her there. I look forward to the day when my future kids can meet Aunt Hostie and see what it means to not be defined by what hardships you face, but to work hard and be whatever you want to be in this world. I know they'll look up to her just as much as I do.

That girl is going places and I, for one, am so lucky that she's allowed me to watch her along the way. And I love that she has a few champions that are spread out throughout the South and Midwest just in case she ever needs us. I've always heard the saying "it takes a village to raise a child", but I'm pretty convinced in her instance, it only takes one child to teach a village.

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