• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.


Blindsided by Kindness

A thank-you note, in blog form.

September 24, 2020

I’ll protect the generous by not naming names.

A week or so ago, I had a brief exchange on social media with someone I respect tremendously. She’s well-known in higher ed circles, and for good reason. We made plans for a follow-up conversation.

I had thought she was working on something, and the conversation would be a sort of information-gathering exercise. Not wanting to waste her time, I went in with notes.

A couple minutes into the conversation, I realized that I had misunderstood. She wasn’t gathering intelligence for a project. She was reaching out as a kindness. She picked up on my frustration about something that matters to me, and she wanted to help. She offered a perspective that reflected the reasons I respect her in the first place.

It hadn’t occurred to me that I would be the subject matter of the conversation.

It really threw me. First in a bad way -- as I marinated in some of those uncorked frustrations -- but then in a good one, as I reflected both on what she said and the fact that she bothered to say it. She absolutely did not have to. And when I had some time to reflect on it, what she said made a lot of sense. It was something I didn’t know I needed to hear until a few hours after I heard it.

Sometimes an unexpected tap on the shoulder makes a difference.

So thank you, unnamed interlocutor, both for what you said and for bothering to say it at all. If I’m going to be blindsided by something, let it be kindness. And thanks for reminding me, by example, to pay it forward.


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