I was taken aback. His mum was a teacher at the local primary school, which ‘fed’ Shaun’s secondary school. The older students knew his mum well. They spoke fondly of her as did Shaun.
When making his career choice, he mentioned how his mum had been the inspiration for him to become a teacher as well. He saw the positive difference she was able to make to a young person’s life with her gentle and caring approach.
Driven by her legacy, he shared that his purpose was to ensure every student in his school felt included and safe. You could feel his devotion in every word. As the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche put it, “he who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”
Shaun talked about the relationships he had built with his students. How his openness had baffled some of the more senior teachers. What Shaun probably didn’t anticipate is how well I could empathise with his circumstances.
I shared with him my experience. Like Shaun, my mum had also passed away and coincidentally she was also a primary school teacher.
I knew firsthand what she would’ve meant to the school and to the children. The immense pride he would have felt as the school recognised her life with touching tributes and yet understanding she would never know the truly positive impact her work had on people.
As we talked it through, Shaun shed a few tears, followed with the customary British apology when, of course, there was absolutely no need.
As Ben Renshaw defines it, “your personal purpose is an aspirational reason for being. A deep conviction about what is most important. It shapes your mindset, behaviour and actions. It has a timeless quality, which is beyond circumstance. It provides meaning and direction for your life.”
We were connected and united in a purpose. The conversation energised me for the rest of the day. In 30 minutes we had built trust, just like that. For me, Shaun’s demonstration of that initial vulnerability was a sign of strength not weakness. I won’t forget Shaun. I can’t forget Shaun.