Recently I sat in my therapist’s office all ready to bark at the moon and lay blame for all my issues on my mother, the kid that aimed at me in dodge ball and possibly Nixon. But the session turned into a warm and fuzzy remembrance of the man who turned my life around.
In high school we had a Dean of Discipline, OK he was the assistant principal, named Phil Ross. Mr. Ross waited at the doors to the school every morning the way a fisherman waited for his first catch of the day. On this breezy fall morning it was I who would find myself entangled in his net. Around the second period, I was bolting down the stairs tragically late for my class, my long hair caked all over my brow and one Mr. Ross waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs.
Called into his office, I sat quietly across from him and a dialogue ensued between two people who never took the time to know each other. Two periods later, feet up on his desk, lessons about life and laughter abound, Phil Ross released me back into the wild. “And don’t let me catch you doing that again Sullivan!” He bellowed for effect. “Yes Sir Mr. Ross.” I added to keep the masquerade going. He winked at me and my life had changed.
From that day forward I was never consciously late again. I was quicker to stop and take in what was going on around me academically. I was faster on the draw to get to know someone I didn’t understand. More importantly I had become a friend of Phil Ross. A man who understood children and teens better than Cosby himself.
Phil believed in me. I remember when I produced my first Off, WAY Off-Broadway show with a production company of my own creation. It was in a room that made a Starbucks restroom look palatial and 8 people turned up. Phil Ross was one of them. After the show was over Phil came over to me and placed my forehead to his and said something to me that again, altered my life. With tears in his eyes he said, “I am so proud of you. You did this.” I countered with a “but there only 8 people here.” He took my hands and said, “Never doubt what you can accomplish. Have faith in yourself and others will believe in you.”
Phil and his wife Louise, never had children of their own. His students, his basketball team, we all became his, their, children. I think of him often but the years moved quickly. As I prepared to leave my therapist she said, “So, Phil was Ty’s Yoda. You know what you must do now?”
“Find him. Tell him how much he meant to me and introduce him to my daughter.” I said.
“And let him know that you still believe.”
We learn to be leaders, motivators, believers from the most unlikely places. Who is or was your “Yoda”? Share their name here for all to know them. Speak well of them and often and their lessons will live on.
May the Force be with You…Always. And so it goes…