Greetings, My Friends. Today, I offer this TED Talk on “Lollipop Moments”. Please take 6 minutes to view than read on, OK? I promise you, it will be time well spent!

Cool eh? OK, Here’s my “Lollipop Moment” story:

In 1977, when I was a young 25 year old high school Chemistry Teacher in Racine, WI, I had a quiet, almost mousy, 16 year old student in my homeroom named Andrea. She was the only child of a German immigrant family and she was very introverted. Nevertheless, I initiated friendly conversations with her and got to know a bit about her during our 10 minute homeroom period each day. She had shared with me once how hard it was to live in US culture with ‘old world parents’ who barely spoke English.

One day, Andrea was absent, which was very unusual for her. The next day, she showed up to homeroom with a long sleeve shirt on- on an 80 degree day. When she reached for something, I noticed she had what were clearly home made bandages on both her wrists. I knew immediately what had happened- she had attempted suicide and, being unsuccessful, she simply bandaged her wrists and went to school the next day! I was sure her parents had no idea what had happened.

I decided to talk to the school counselor, who called Andrea in and got her into a therapy program. Andrea and I never talked about this situation directly, as I didn’t know how to broach such a deep topic with a student. So, I thought that was the end of this incident and, frankly, I completely forgot about it.

Now fast forward to 2007. I had just announced my retirement from teaching. I was gratified to hear from several former students via letter or emails- all of whom were kind in their praise of my teaching and the influence I had on them. But one former student felt compelled to come see me in person to share her thoughts. Yep, it was Andrea, who came to an open house and stood for an hour, as the last parent in line, to see me, even though she did not have a child in my class.

Here’s what she said to me, “Mr. Broniec, I don’t know if you remember me. My name is Andrea and I was in your homeroom back in 1977. That was 30 years ago!” I knew who she was immediately! The memories flooded back. She continued, “I heard that you were retiring and I did not want to let you leave before I shared with you the profound impact you had on my life. I want you to know that you saved my life that day when you noticed my suicide attempt and sent me to see my counselor. As a result of that simple intervention, I am alive today and happily married and the mother of two terrific kids who now go to school right here. I am also college graduate and work as a nurse. I am convinced that none of those good things would have happened if you had not seen my pain back then and took the steps you took to get me help. I have wanted to tell you this for a long time, so I am glad to finally have the opportunity to say ‘Thanks You! You were an angel and you never knew until today what a gift you gave me and my family.”

We both began to weep and I took Andrea into my arms for a long, deep hug. She smiled radiantly and said, “So, have a great retirement, Mr. B. Know that one small legacy of your 35 year teaching career- and your caring- is my family and my hospital work. I am so grateful- and I also want you to know that I pass that gift on every day to my family and my patients, too. I am so glad that you know how I feel.” We hugged again and she left. Needless to say, I was deeply moved and gratified beyond words to find out the impact of my simple intervention, forgotten so long ago. A profound “Lollipop Moment” indeed!

What is yours?

Humbly Grateful,
Rick