Monday, January 22, 2007

Fun with Archie

Look ma', I'm in the paper... if you don't mind my last name being misspelled as "Autury" instead of "Autery".

Last Thursday, I was honored by the Mentoring Center of Central Ohio as a "commended mentor" for having volunteered for Northwest Counseling over the last 4 years. My mentee, Dave, attended with me, as did my daughter Stacey, roommate Bill, and 5 members of my church group. It felt good to be recognized, but as the article above shows, I and 6 of my fellows were honored mainly as footnotes to the 3 "outstanding" mentors who have either been mentoring for much longer, or who have done some truly amazing work with a volatile kid. Considering my lack of a rich public speaking background, I was happy to only have to take my certificate, get a picture taken with the other guys, and go sit back down.

Archie Griffin was the keynote speaker. I had never heard him speak before, except for a Kroger commercial or two back in the day, so I was taken by complete surprise when he gave a moving, inspiring speech, with emphasis, full command of his audience, and barely glancing at his notes. He was even deferential to the event by slipping away quietly after his speech before autograph seekers would have ruined the spirit of lobbying for mentoring. I'm not a sports nut, and I'm also not a sucker for a tearjerker speech, nor do I tend to put people on pedestals, so I can say objectively that Archie is a class act.

As fate would have it, the company I work for, AEP, was one of the sponsors of the event, and a major contributor to local mentoring agencies. Accepting a certificate and being in a major contributors' group photo would have been the director who works on my floor, Velda Otey (my boss' boss' boss), but she was committed to two different publicity events that night. I saw her name tag as I walked in, so I looked for her during the pre-ceremony dinner. I saw her come in and went over to say hi, and she was talking with Marilyn Pritchett, director of the Mentoring Center about needing to leave. When Velda saw me she said "Oh, thank goodness, you can accept the award for AEP."

"Um... sure," says I, so along with having to stand up and walk to the stage a second time to get a second certificate (amid the confused looks of some of my guests), I was in a group photo with some big-wigs from major area businesses like Huntington Banks, Chase, Nationwide, etc. So basically there is a picture somewhere with directors and Vice Presidents of big companies, and me. I had trouble not laughing like a fool when the picture was snapped, as I had this brief fantasy of showing future viewers that I was the lone coder among high paid businessmen by doing something a geek might do in a formal picture: the Spock hand-sign. Live long and prosper, indeed.

Fortunately, common sense won out.

The best moment of the evening, by far, was the look of pride on my daughter's face when I walked up to the stage for the commended mentor certificate. On the way up, the speaker narrated who I was, how long I had been placed with Dave, and some of the major activities we had done (including our two Habitat for Humanities projects). Stacey stood and clapped uproariously, with the rest of the gang attending on my behalf, and despite my long-practiced emotional control, I was moved to near tears. Stacey can do that to me -- cleanse my soul, be the medicine for my sky.

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