Commentary

April 19, 2013

A chance encounter

Retired Gen. Steve Lorenz
U.S. Air Force Academy Endowment President

As a leader, you must always be observant of what is going on around you. Literally you need to observe, listen and sense in a 360-degree circle in real time.

To truly be effective, you need to have your radar up and running at all times because you never know when you can make a difference.

Recently, I was walking to my car after a meeting with the Air Force Academy Director of Athletics and I chanced upon a cadet walking back to the cadet area. She seemed deep in thought and very preoccupied. I turned and asked her how she was doing. I could tell she was thinking, “Who is this stranger and I don’t have time to talk to him.”

I persisted and once again asked how she was doing.

She said “fine”, but I could tell something was wrong.

I introduced myself and reminded her that I had talked about leadership with her cadet class about six months before. She seemed to remember and then finally told me about her recent academic and discipline challenges. I listened carefully, paused and related to her some similar challenges I faced 40 years before when I was cadet. We talked about the struggles of having to study harder to make better grades, and that when you break the rules you must be a leader and accept the consequences of your bad decisions. I asked her what her personal goals were and she said she wanted to graduate from the Academy and be commissioned an officer in the Air Force.

I remember all those many years ago when I was restricted to my room studying and serving confinements. I would get depressed and start feeling sorry for myself. To keep my motivation up, I would look at a picture of my class ring and remind myself why I was at the Academy. It helped me on my darkest days.

This cadet was still a year away from ordering her ring, so I gave her my tie tack which had the Air Force symbol on it. I told her that she must never give up on her goal and that when she was down in the months to come, she should hold that small Air Force symbol in her hand and let it remind her why she was at the Academy. She took it, said thank you and said she had to get back to class. As she walked away, I realized that I never even got her name. I told my wife about this encounter and put this chance meeting out of my mind.

However, much to my surprise, two days later I received an e-mail from the cadet’s father. In part it said:

“Hello Mr. Lorenz, I have not had the honor of meeting you, but … my daughter, though, has had the opportunity. You see, my daughter was the cadet you came across two days ago outside Clune Arena.

ìAlthough you may believe it was a chance encounter, she believes it was something quite different. Her exact words to her mother and I was that running into you was “a sign.”

ìWhat you told her and said to her had a huge impact on her, one that she will never forget. You helped her to reaffirm her commitment to the Academy and why she went there. After a hard day with some difficult conversations and the normal struggles that most cadets face, she was starting to question whether she belonged at the Academy.

ìSuddenly, you appeared, and were kind and compassionate enough to realize she was in need of a sympathetic person who could relate to her. Your conversation impacted her greatly, and she left your encounter more determined and intent on graduating because she received (your message) when she needed it most.

ìHer mother and I live close to 650 miles away. We couldn’t be there for her at that moment, but we want to thank you for taking the time to stop and help someone in need. Taking time and having the patience to listen, be understanding, sympathetic and impacting a stranger’s life forever.
This is not an exaggeration, but a fact we feel strongly about. There was a reason you were there to help her and, for that, we will always be thankful to you. We just wanted you to know the influence you had on our daughter and that you made a difference in her life that day … Thank you again!”

Let me emphasize that this story is not about me. I was just there and asked the cadet how she was doing. It is about observing those around you and making a difference when you least expect it.

If you are observant, even chance encounters provide an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. So, the next time you are out among people, even if you are just walking down the street, take the time to notice each one as an individual. You may have the chance to make a huge difference.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

News Briefs April 17, 2015

STEM Expo The Antelope Valley Union High School District needs volunteers to serve as judges for the first Annual STEM Expo 5:30 p.m., April 27 at Eastside High School. Students will be evaluated in seven categories: Environmental/Agricultural Innovation, Invention, Reverse Engineering, Robotics and Computer Science, Rube Goldberg, Science Fiction, and Science Inquiry. Eastside High School...
 
 

Sexual assault survivor: One Airman’s story

- By a Survivor WASHINGTON — Sexual assault is a hot topic — one addressed in annual training and at commander’s calls throughout the Air Force — yet the details of victims’ stories are seldom mentioned. This is understandable. These crimes against service members are intensely personal. Also, as many survivors have learned, listeners don’t...
 
 
cmsaf

Q&A with the CMSAF

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody and his wife, retired Chief Master Sgt. Athena Cody, visited Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, from March 31 to April 2. During his visit, Cody met with Airmen to discuss morale, w...
 

 
U.S. Air Force photo by Michael J. Pausic

CSAF discusses Air Force’s need to reset

U.S. Air Force photo by Michael J. Pausic Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III addresses the audience during his speech at the Air Force Association’s monthly Breakfast Series in Arlington, Va., April 2. The Air Force...
 
 
Air Force photograph by Rebecca Amber

Command chief shares secrets to success for enlisted

Air Force photograph by Rebecca Amber Chief Master Sgt. David Smith, 412th Test Wing command chief hosted a mandatory enlisted all-call at the base theater April 13. Chief Master Sgt. David Smith, 412th Test Wing command chief ...
 
 
DoD
Air Force photograph by Senior Airman Thomas Spangler

F-35 program ‘on right track,’ director says

Air Force photograph by Senior Airman Thomas Spangler An F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 61st Fighter Squadron, Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., taxis to the runway for a training exercise at Nellis AFB, Nev., April 15, 2015. Mai...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>