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  • Writer's pictureGayle

Never Too Old To Try Again...(tear-jerker)

Our oldest daughter Amy works for TSA. She sent me this letter.

Dear Dad,

I guess I could’ve called to share the story I texted you about, but I’m opting to send it via email while it’s fresh on the brain. I know over time, my memory of this day will fade and I won’t remember it being as epic as I feel right now. Again, know that I’m not sharing this story to toot my own horn, but rather as a testament to the tried and true principle of Encouragement that was taught in The House of Corzine (Long I).

For the last two weeks, I have been assisting with the training of twenty-four New Hires. Young and old. Men and women. The personalities and the life stories are so vastly different and interesting, which is why I love what I do. Having said that, we can usually tell within the first several days of teaching them the screening procedures and the unglamorous parts of the job, who will and will not make it in this business. Sometimes we are wrong . . . sometimes.

Mr. Fox is the oldest of our students. He’s in his sixties. He didn’t stand out and grab my attention initially because he is quiet. Very quiet. He doesn’t ask questions and he doesn’t share anything about himself. Spending weeks in training together, one gets to know about their peers. We know nothing about Mr. Fox. We may never know much about him and I think that’s the way he wants it. I could be wrong, but it’s a concept I don’t understand. I’m learning to honor it in others though. Part of my job in the training department is to help our students (and even current employees) interpret X-ray images. It can be challenging at times as most traveler’s bags are overstuffed and full of electronics and clutter. It’s especially challenging to the one who has never operated an X-ray machine, much less seen an actual X-ray. Mr. Fox wasn’t doing well in this particular area of training. His scores were low and he knew it, but he wouldn’t ask for help. We offered and he refused, so, I couldn’t care anymore about his training than he did. Right?

Well, yesterday was a big day. It was test day and our students only had two times to take the test. After the second failure, we have the displeasure of letting them know that this job may not be right for them and wish them success in other future endeavors. Out of twenty-four, only 16 passed the first time. I wasn’t worried. Two and a half years ago when I was a student in the New Hire Class, I was the ONLY one that didn’t pass the first time. Now I’m a trainer! So we chalk it up to test anxiety, overthinking, or tiredness. I wasn’t worried for anyone but Mr. Fox. After the test, I found Mr. Fox in the hallway sitting on the floor, back against the wall with his head in his hands. He had given his employee and government ID cards to Bill, the Supervising Instructor, to turn in to HR. Mr. Fox had admitted defeat . . . . Well, you know me and my love for old men and my empathy for others who, like me, have to work a little harder to just barely make a passing grade. I got down on my knees in front of Mr. Fox and told him that I had failed my first attempt with the X-ray test, and what was worse, I was the ONLY ONE in my class to fail. “Now look at me, Mr. Fox! Two and half years later, I’m teaching you. . . . Actually, that was meant to be encouraging. If it’s not, scratch what I just told you.”

He didn’t think I was as funny and charming as much as I think I am. “I failed it by a country mile.” Those were his exact words. I explained to him that he had one more chance. It wouldn’t cost him anything to retake the test. He had nothing to lose. I explained that we would give him one-on-one remediation to help identify the areas of difficulty. He reluctantly agreed, but he promised to come back the next day. I left him to find Bill before it was too late and he turned in the ID cards. “Mr. Fox is coming back tomorrow. I got him to change his mind.” Thankfully, HR was gone for the day and it wasn’t too late. Last night, I lay in bed and prayed. I prayed, Dad. And I asked God for my remaining eight students to pass. Telling someone that they would not be advancing in our organization is not something I want to experience. I know I will someday, but this is not a good week in the month to do it. I prayed specifically for my discouraged old(er) man, Mr. Fox. And I fell asleep praying for him.

Today was test day. They were nervous. And when Bill stepped out of the classroom, I addressed the eight students: “I don’t know if any of you are religious, and if you are not, that’s ok. I happen to be as I was a Preacher’s Kid. So I prayed for all y'all last night as I was laying in bed going to sleep. I prayed that y’all would pass. You’ll do just fine. Remember what we taught you and believe that you can pass.” I debated telling them I prayed for them. I was really sticking my neck out for a God they may or may not believe in, but I needed them to know that I believed in them. I could tell they all appreciated what I had told them. So, one by one, they finished the test, and one by one they passed. Only two were left in the class, Mr. Fox and Mr. Berhe. I asked Bill if he would check the scores as I didn’t think I could emotionally handle the results. I was too nervous. Mr. Fox raised his hand. He was done. I hid behind the large beam in the classroom while Bill checked his score. Mr. Fox passed!!!

I congratulated him and asked him if I could hug him. I didn’t wait for an answer. I squeezed him hard! Here’s the crazy part - everyone passed. No one had to go look for another job today. How exciting is that?! Everyone else got it. Mr. Fox still stayed in the back of the classroom, quiet and reserved and he remained that way for most of the day. That’s ok, though. I had enough happiness for both of us. While his face softened a little as time went on, he still said nothing . . . . until the end of class as he was walking out. He hung back. He was the last to leave and he came up to me, shook my hand, and said, “Thank you. For everything.” Because I learned the gift of encouragement from the best, an old man has a secure job, health benefits, and a TSP (Thrift Savings Plan) in a day and age where that is hard to come by all because he tried again. My heart is very happy.

Love you, Dad,


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