It’s been more than a week since I had lunch with Christina Calgaard-Maulsby, Waldorf College class of 2002, and her adorable son, Quentin. I still don’t know what I want to say to adequately express the dynamics of what I think and feel.
The relationships Mark and I forge with former students are as unique as the relationships we had with them during their time in our classrooms. We have found that the students are the ones who set the dynamics, as it should be. Yet life shapes those relationships as well.
A teacher cannot help being affected by watching the way a young man or woman deals with the chronic illness of a parent, the death of a parent or close friend, news that mom and dad are divorcing, news that mom or dad are moving or have lost a job, the sudden awareness that they might be an addict or anorexic or bulimic, the realization they are pregnant and life will never be the same, the realization they are gay and they simply cannot pretend one day more.
Then there are the times I witness life circumstances reflected through their eyes – like the year my Editing class surprised me with a card filled with personal notes of encouragement the day before we were to take Stross for an unplanned surgery. Or the time my PR Skills class joined with Mark’s Electronic Field Production class to give us a gift certificate for a classy date night because they wanted us to take more time for ourselves. Or when yet another year’s Editing class supported a classmate with a teenaged daughter and an elementary-aged daughter through her husband’s untimely death from prostate cancer.
I learn so much about life from those I am privileged to meet in my various classrooms.
But somehow, I think, Christina is in still another category – one of … see, this is where words fail me. Probably because her life has found a way to emotionally pierce mine. While her life choices and life events have not mirrored mine fully, they do reflect emotions of paths I’ve taken.
As a student, Christina drank in the knowledge and experiences I had to offer. She had a natural inclination for the field of public relations and marketing, and after she graduated, she never looked back. Not once. She had chosen her career path well and was enjoying every minute of what it allowed her to do and become.
After working as a college recruiter for a year, she became the marketing coordinator for a bank in southern Minnesota, coordinating all the internal and external marketing efforts for its 11 locations. Then she headed to Florida where she worked for an advertising agency before landing a job as the marketing officer for TIB Bank in Naples. Here she really got a taste of the corporate world, taking on all that comes with a bank buy-out.
Christina led the efforts necessary to merge the bank’s identities, crafting a plan that had customers from the bank that was being purchased able to talk directly to the president new organization if their questions were not adequately answered immediately by the customer service representative she had placed in each branch office. All this occurred the day the signs were changed and the announcement simultaneously made. She proudly told me they only lost two customers in the branch she was in that morning, and those individuals had planned to pull their money for other reasons anyway. In fact, the whole transition went smoothly and much of the success was credited to her. It was likely one of the reasons she was named as one of the 40 under 40 to watch in the local media then. (BTW: She’s only 30 now.) Also, she and her husband, Grant, served as mentors to children in the foster care system through the area’s Footsteps to the Future program. Christina even served on its board.
While all that is wonderful, it’s not so different from what other alumni have accomplished in other ways in the communities where they live and work. What has me connecting most to Christina these days is part of her motherhood story: Quentin was injured in the home of the woman she had chosen as Quentin’s care provider. Over our recent lunch I relived our horror as she shared her own. And while these matters are always horrific, Quentin’s ordeal is especially so. I will not go into the details here, as there is a child abuse court case pending. But I have blogged about it before, and you can find Christina’s story and links to news reports here.
I think the thing that has me most awestruck, is that I am watching Christina navigate a version of life so far removed from normal that the vast majority simply cannot comprehend its layered complexity. And she’s doing it beautifully.
I remember instinctively employing my organizational skills to take on my new version of life checklist by checklist; I see her doing something similar. It is how you merge two banks into one identity; it is how you merge your former way of life with a vastly different one. And note: That last feat is to merge “with” not “into” – there is a difference. For unlike a bank or a company, your identity is forever part of who you are – a child of God seeking to glorify the image of God no matter what you do, where you go or what happens to you.
Christina, you once gave me a book as a thank you for what you had learned from me in the classroom. I look forward to discovering along with you all the new things life has for us – you, Grant and Quentin; and me, Mark, Skye and Stross. I hope you find something of value in the book I have given you.
Blessings to you my, friend. Don’t ever hesitate to call me – ever.