We can sometimes save a life and never have to leave our desks.
On a Friday a few weeks ago, some of my co-workers and I were in our cafeteria. We were exhausted and on mental overload, but we were eating lunch and talking—mainly about how crazy this fall has been. Two of our four were talking about retirement because "it had been the worst ever" in their history of financial aid. A couple of my co-workers went to get something, and a lady came up to me and said, “I remember you. You saved my life.” Needless to say, I stood there speechless. For those of you who know me, I am sure that you cannot imagine me ever being speechless, but I was.
As I stood there, she continued to say that a couple of years ago she had to go through the SAP appeal process. At that time, we had met face to face. She said that I saved her and the lives of her children because I gave her back her financial aid. When I started to speak, she said, “You don’t understand where I was. I was beaten. I was bruised, and I was mentally whipped. The only things that would keep me going were my children. Because of you, I was able to leave my abusive husband and change the pattern. I never realized that I could be someone. I graduated a couple of years ago, and I was recently laid off from work which is why I am working here in the cafeteria. I plan to start graduate school if I am not hired full-time soon. You changed me. You changed my children, and our lives will never be the same.” After fighting some gnats in my eyes (or maybe some tears), I looked at her and said, “I didn't save your lives. You did. You chose to not repeat a cycle. You chose to make a better life. You chose to take the opportunity that you were given. I only gave you a glimmer of hope. You chose to give yourself and your family a lifetime of respect and accomplishment.”
As she walked away, I realized that I didn't even remember her name, but I will be ever grateful to this former student as she reminded me of one reason why I love this profession. Financial Aid is not glamorous, glorious, or money-making, but it is life changing—both for those who we touch and for us who do the work each day. Each of us has a daily choice to make. We can get up in the morning and choose to have a great day. We can choose to be nice. We can choose to be helpful. We can choose to be friendly. We can choose…any mood or mindset.
Who knows, one day the life you save may be the one that steps in to save yours.
Submitted by Stephanie Miller, Assistant Director of Student Financial Services at Jacksonville State University (AL) and AASFAA President.