I spent the summer before my freshman year at Union College searching for a job. Knowing I would work my way through college, the plan was to pick up whatever jobs were available. Ultimately finding a job in the business office, I met my boss, Salli Jenks, one of the most thoughtful people I have ever encountered.
When I first started as a timid freshman, she was encouraging and cheerful. A few months in, she called me over to her desk.
“Katie, I’d like you to take an online work personality test,” she said. “Basically it will tell me what motivates you and how you communicate in the work place. It’s going to help me know how better to interact with you in the office and get to know how your mind works.”
I took the quiz and turned in the results. We talked through my answers to really get a feel for my reactions. I mentioned that candy motivated me to do just about anything. I am a candy fiend. I have the cavity fillings and dentist bills to prove it. Salli laughed but didn’t say too much about it.
The next week, I went to work as usual. As I dug through my pile of assignments, I saw a bag of gummy worms. I spun around to Salli and waved them at her in disbelief.
“Are these for me?” I asked.
She shrugged happily. “You said candy motivates you.”
Her little action of buying me candy meant she had been thinking about me and how to encourage me more. As if her attitude and leadership in the office weren’t enough, Salli went out of her way to make me feel special. Even after two years, I still find a surprise on my desk every once in a while and every time I do, I am moved by her kindness and feel impressed to do the same for others.
My sophomore year of college presented a challenge. I didn’t have a roommate nor did I have anyone in mind. It seemed like I was going to end up with a stranger or even worse, someone I knew but didn’t like. About a month before school started, my cousin called me. She told me that her best friend was transferring to Union College from Andrews University and needed a roommate. She described the friend, a girl named Kristina, as shy, clean and studious.
When I got to my room that fall, Kristina was sitting on the bed. She was so shy that it took months for me to actually have a meaningful conversation with her. Once I did, I found an amazing and compassionate friend.
This was exemplified the morning I forgot to make my bed. I woke up late and darted out of the room, ignoring the messy comforter and selfishly focusing on my tardiness. I returned later that day exhausted. Glancing at my bed, I stopped short. My bed looked like someone had pulled it from an Ikea catalog. The covers were smoothed, the pillows fluffed—everything was perfect. My roommate, quiet and studious and self-contained, had taken the time to make my bed.
I know making someone’s bed doesn’t change the world. It doesn’t end world hunger or combat global warming. But it touched me. Unfortunately, I view myself as a selfish person. My natural reaction would not be, Oh, an unmade bed. Let me just make that real quick. I would most likely leave it for someone else to deal with. But Kristina saw my bed that morning and took it upon herself to rectify the situation. It blew me away. The rest of the year, we randomly made each other’s beds. It was the simplest thing but she inspired me with her kindness to look for opportunities to do things for others.
If asked who has made the biggest impact on my life, I would instantly say my parents. They work in tandem, as a joint force, to raise their children and reach people for Christ. My dad pastors the Hutchinson Seventh-day Adventist Church in Minnesota while my mom works as a registered nurse. But focusing more on my dad, I can’t begin to count the different ways he has helped me grow spiritually and as a person in general.
A few winters ago, my dad and I took some snowmobiles out for a ride. We ended up riding about 20 miles out to a small diner for breakfast. It was our father-daughter date. We ate pancakes and drank hot chocolate and just enjoyed each other’s company. As we headed out to the parking lot, he pulled me in for a hug.
“I love you, Katie,” he said. “I’m so proud of you.”
My dad doesn’t shy away from emotion. He purposefully tells his children how proud he is of their accomplishments. He strips away the awkwardness of a compliment and genuinely praises the gifts God has given us. He has told me countless times how proud he is. But every single time I hear those words, I’m struck by the strength of his love for me. If my dad can love me that much, how much more does my heavenly Father love me? My dad makes a difference in my life daily by being the best example of God’s character I have on Earth.
God can work in all types of settings. He isn’t restricted to elaborate charity events or dramatic rescue stories. Rather than being confined, God has an ability to use anyone to create a moment. God can work in any situation and make a life-changing difference, whether through a declaration of pride or a candy bar.
This article was also published in the February 2015 print edition of OUTLOOK, our annual special issue written and designed by Union College students. It was written by Katie Morrison, a junior business administration major from Hutchinson, Minnesota. The print version was designed by Elena Cornwell, who is pursuing a personalized degree in communication and is from Hilo, Hawaii.