I’m not one of those people who get all misty-eyed when talking about their old school, whether elementary, high school or university. It’s the people I have fond memories of more than the place itself.
I usually get a call around this time each year from Carleton U., my alma mater. I always donate as much as I can afford but the call itself is an inconvenience and I know I betray my annoyance in my snippy tone.
I don’t know if it’s this good deed thing or an intangible vulnerability I heard in the voice of the student who called me today, but it ended up being a really nice conversation.
Maybe what broke the ice was when he suggested that if I needed confirmation that he was really calling from Carleton, he could tell me my student number. “That’s an easy one,” I joked. “Probably so long ago it’s a single digit.” He was kind enough to laugh.
Although he tried to hide it, his voice wavered with nervousness. I don’t know if he usually spoke in such a high pitch, but it actually cracked once or twice.
He was trying so hard to up-sell Carleton, I found it endearing. So, instead of rushing him off the phone like I normally would, I expressed interest in the new initiatives he described: the Unicentre, Southam Hall, the Arts Tower, and my personal favourite, the library.
His voice cracked again as he told me about a new program that gives students the opportunity to volunteer around the world during Spring Break. This year, they helped build a school in Mexico.
I did feel proud of my old school at that moment and I could tell he did too. Although he did rush out the words — probably afraid I’d hang up on him before he could finish or cut him off (which is probably how I handled it when I got the call around this time last year).
This year, however, I could sense that he relaxed a little as soon as I showed genuine interest. And when I agreed to send in a contribution towards the library, I even got an “okey dokey” and later an “A-OK” (did this kid time-travel from the 1950s, I wondered).
He seemed so relieved when he took my final details and ended the call, I almost laughed. But I didn’t. I told him he was doing a great job for Carleton and to keep up the good work….
P.S. Since Christmas is fast-approaching, here’s one of my favourite carols to get you in the holly jolly spirit.