June 26, 2023
I am reminded of my late mother’s wisdom on a regular basis, sometimes in random ways. Here is an odd example. About 2 months ago, I was in North Carolina watching a group of musicians play bluegrass. It was just a random pick-up session with 3 fiddles, 1 bass, 4 guitars, 2 banjos and 5 different musical keys (their enthusiasm was higher than their skill). I was with Susie and a friend and we wer just enjoying a nice day.
After the jam session, one of the guitar players came up to us, smiled and said, “Hello Steve. Do you recognize me?”
He was about 40 with a short beard and long hair. He looked somewhat familiar, but something about his appearance seemed amiss.
I suspect my head canted somewhat - like a confused hound - because he quickly came to my rescue.
“It’s Ryan. Ryan from First Citizens Bank. Or, more accurately, formerly from First Citizens Bank.”
We are involved with a camp in North Carolina and I was tasked to help it secure a seasonal loan. While doing so, I met a clean-cut, formally dressed banker with short, cropped hair. His name was Ryan. About 1 month before this reintroduction, he had sent an announcement that he was leaving the bank. I had not thought much about it until I found myself talking to the newly-minted version of Ryan who was smiling and holding his guitar case. They looked very different.
I said hello and asked him what he was up to. He said that he was working at a school and playing some music on the side. He noted that he liked his new attire more.
He then said something that surprised me.
“I always enjoyed working with you. I especially like how you signed your emails. You would write, ‘Your Fan, Steve’. I wanted to be a better person after I knew I had a fan.”
Susie looked at me knowing that I might get a little misty-eyed. She knew why I signed my letters and emails that way.
It was how my mother signed her letters to me, but not just to me. When I was the Executor of her estate, I came across dozens of correspondnaces and saw that she often signed this way. This revelation had a real impact on me. It was a simple manifestation of her emotional generosity - she managed to find something admirable about almost anyone and would become a “fan”. I reflected that I am not naturally that emotionally generous, but I would like to be more like that.
I decided to sign my letters and emails the same way. It was training toward more generosity; an exercise to mold me into a better person.
But I had not thought about the effects it might have on someone else.
Here in rural North Carolina, a relative stranger was thanking me for my mother’s habit. In that moment, I knew she was there too.
One of the tenets of camp is that we strive to celebrate multiple generations as well as the people who were here before us. They may not be here physically, but they are with us nonetheless.
I find that comforting.