Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Skyscrapers, Friendship, & Marvelous Mentors

The Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia are the tallest twin structures in the world.Flickr/Hadi Zaher

Do you ever stop, crane your neck back, and look up, marveling at how far you’ve come because of someone’s influence?
I’ll always fondly remember one of my first professional friends and mentors. I was fresh out of college and clueless about corporate culture when Deb swept into my life. She was a Buyer for a large international defense contractor. I was an Accounts Payable Clerk. Our paths intersected because I reconciled invoices for the products and services she procured.
A constant stream of encouragement to me, we became fast friends.
I’ll always remember shoe shopping with her at lunch. At least 6’ tall and thin as a rail, Deb wore high heels with the poise and confidence of a dramatic skyscraper. T.J. Gottesdiener, a designer of numerous tall buildings including the Sears Tower in Chicago would say, of a skyscraper, “It has attitude, and is anything that makes you stop, stand, crane your neck back, and look up." That's my friend, Deb! Not only was she physically attractive; but much more, she was driven, strong, and connected; competitive, accountable and accomplished; competent, credible, and conversational; approachable, empathetic and appreciative. Deb stood head and shoulders above everyone else; and, everyone looked up to her, especially me.
She was my trustworthy, loyal companion, believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself. Recognizing my potential, she used her dynamic influence and connectivity to help promote me to a Purchasing Agent. From her, I learned the art of persuasion and negotiation, two skills that I mastered over time and used to elevate my career, and achieve my dreams.
Outside of work, we shared many endearing moments. Weekends we often hung out with our spouses, eating tasty tacos, yellow rice, and pinto beans while sipping sweet red wine at her beautiful home in the rural Welsh Mountains of South Central Pennsylvania.
Cross-stitching was my hobby and labor of love. When her daughter, Jennifer was born, I threaded my silver needle and stitched a simple sampler to commemorate the occasion. For Christmas one year, I patiently wove my needle up and down, crisscrossing stitches to create a cute little bear and candy cane keepsake. Gifts from my heart to hers.
When her second daughter was born, she named her Kristen “Elizabeth” after me.
Shortly after Kristen was born, Deb’s husband accepted a job transfer to Arkansas. When the moving truck pulled out of the driveway that warm summer day carrying my best friend and mentor far away, my heart was completely crushed. As though it were driving through a gigantic puddle on a rainy day, tears splashed my face smearing my makeup like mud.
Later Deb moved to Texas, and we moved on with our lives, losing touch. However, I never forgot this special lady who stood head and shoulders above the crowd leaving a legacy of love on my life.
You can only imagine my ecstasy when I found her on Facebook a few years ago.  Jennifer is grown and married with a daughter of her own. She named her daughter, Lilah “Elizabeth” after Aunt Kristen, and me. Jennifer wasn’t more than five years old when she moved away from Pennsylvania with her parents, but memories of her “Rudy” – that’s the name she affectionately called me – lived on in her heart. Today, she lives in Georgia.
Kristen, my namesake, is grown and married too. She and her husband live in Washington.
They are two beautiful young women who stand tall and dramatic like their mother, influencing lives through their chosen careers.
This week, Deb posted a photo and status update on Facebook: “Friends gifts keep giving every year. Thank you to Beth Rudy for this cross-stitch bear and candy cane. This traveled from PA to TX.”
She continued, “Over this Thanksgiving I gave Jenn the red heart framed cross-stitch you did with her birth date. Friends gifts are the best. 30 years is right, Beth. Your name is Kristen and Lilah's middle name. I think this makes you very special!!! God bless.”
Like a skyscraper, the gift of lasting friendship may make you stop, stand, crane your neck back, and
look up marveling at the distance of time and space; wondering at its solidity to stand through the storms of life; pondering the generations who passed through its prestigious doors.
Little did I know that a friendship that began more than 30-years ago, would stand firm through the test of separation and time. I didn’t remember the handiwork from my heart, but I’m tickled to know that it was treasured and traveled through states and years and generations.
The lesson in this story is to stand head and shoulders above everyone else. Be a good friend. Encourage those who are younger than you. Give gifts from the heart. Live vibrantly, and you will be like a skyscraper - everyone will look up to you!

Tell me in the comments about the person who causes you to stop, crane your neck back, and look up, marveling at how far you’ve come because of that person’s influence.

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