Cathy and her twelve year-old daughter, Melissa, arrived at the local mall for an afternoon of memories and fun. Little did she know, this day would leave an impression for the rest of her life.
Melissa marveled at the retail stores enticing would-be customers to spend their money on discounted merchandise. The sunlit atrium was accompanied with the chatter of many conversations. Fast-paced shoppers with colorful logo bags weaved throughout the crowds in search of their next sales conquest.
Cathy stopped in the middle of this busy mall, turned to her daughter and said, “Today, I have a special assignment for you.”
Would it be a shopping-spree type of day? It was not her birthday or any other special occasion that she could think of. What could this “special assignment” be? Her big smile and wide eyes eagerly awaited her mother’s next words.
With love, Cathy shared what the special assignment would be.
Melissa exclaimed – “What??? Are you kidding me mom?”
Unfaltering, Cathy restated her words – “You will ask five questions of someone and will repeat this exercise UNTIL someone asks you a question in return.”
Emotions filled Melissa’s mind as she could not believe her mother would ruin their mother-daughter mall fun with such an embarrassing assignment. Unfortunately, she knew that her mother would not yield to any tantrum she could muster nor would she care if her only daughter caused a scene in front of strangers.
Melissa knew that there would be an unforeseen purpose to her madness. No use fighting it, she said under her breath. Might as well get started so that I can get this humiliating experience over with fast!
The exercise proved challenging as she would ask stranger after stranger her five question only to have her hopes dashed when no one replied with a question of their own. Will this ever end? Does anyone care to even ask me their one simple question? How long will this really take???
She lost count of the number of strangers she approached but soon realized that this was not so awkward after all. If the person did not end her encounter with a question of their own, she happily went on to the next stranger who would stop and engage with her.
FINALLY!!! Someone asked her their question!
With a triumphant look and a proud heart, Melissa ran back to her mother and explained her victory. Cathy gave her a big hug, smiled, and they spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying their mall experience.
Fast forward ten years, give or take.
Melissa is away at college and on stage in front of four hundred of her peer students. The professor was appalled when Melissa asked her one question of him. Rather than taking the opportunity to educate the entire class, he berated her. What a humiliating experience!
When class was over, Melissa drew from her memory that mall experience in which her mother gave her that special assignment to talk to complete strangers until one of them replied with a question of their own. She remembered how she felt about her confidence and the willingness to confront strangers no matter their circumstances.
Confidently, she approached her professor and asked why he berated her in front of the entire assembly. He was taken aback that a student would even challenge his teaching techniques. They argued, then talked, then discussed the issue until he gave her his special assignment to write a curriculum that would train future students to be more prepared for his class. This changed his teaching style and improved his collegiate influence.
Melissa realized the importance of her mother’s gift years ago at that busy local mall. That special assignment prepared her to become bold, confident, and respectful when speaking with strangers – in her case, the other professors.
She became a leader that day and this was born of a legacy her mother foresaw years ago.
Did Cathy really understand the impact she had on her daughter? Would Melissa really understand her mother’s love for her based on the life lessons learned through these special assignments?
Well, this story is based on true facts and I had the privilege of hearing it from Cathy the other night as we were humbled guests of her 60th birthday party. Surrounded by her family and other close friends, Cathy retold this story with Melissa seated next to her.
Why was this such an amazing story for me to share? Cathy’s impact on many people’s lives always has a meaningful purpose. When Diana first met Cathy, something clicked between the two of them which would later lead to the love they shared until Diana’s passing.
I will never forget that love Cathy had for Diana. In fact, this was Cathy’s special assignment for Diana – to live a life worthy of a Godly woman.
Do you have a “Cathy” in your life that may have given you a special assignment at some point in your relationship? Appreciate those special people in your life for their legacy of love will transcend generations!
Happy birthday Cathy! May your many special assignments continue to bless others in ways they will never imagine!