We welcome InnerWill Board Member, Roy Goodman, as a contributor to our weekly blog.
None of us really gets there alone, do we? We’ve all had mentors that helped shape our values and life journeys. Sometimes it takes years to develop self-awareness and to recognize those that helped to ignite our potential.
I’ve been inspired by many men in my life. My father was a quiet World War II vet who epitomized the Greatest Generation. My brother is a superb athlete without one hint of quit. My grandfather taught me how to hunt, fish and love the outdoors. Only recently did I come to realize that the time we spent together wasn’t about hunting or fishing!
There is one other person, outside of my family members, who comes to mind. His name is Father Adrian Harmening, and he was my high school principal at Benedictine High School.
Upon completion of his WWII service, Father Adrian immediately went into the seminary. He later reflected, “All I ever wanted, from the time I could walk, was to be a priest.” As a young priest, he was asked by the abbot to spend just one year improving the curriculum at Benedictine. “I have not heard from him since,” says Father Adrian, with a wry smile. You see, that “one year” was 1955, and Father Adrian spent the rest of his career educating the young cadets at Benedictine in mind, body and spirit. Years later we learned of his purpose “to make saints of each of you.” “This is the age when they are forming” Father Adrian said, referring to the many boys that passed through Benedictine. “It is now when we can have the most impact upon their lives”. He, in fact, became one of the many saints in my life, a trusted and respected mentor to me, as he was to many of the boys at the school.
In my first year of high school, I skipped school for the opening day of hunting season. Father Adrian reminded me of severe consequences if I did it again, which I did, in my Junior year. My consequence was to clean the cafeteria every day after school. Several days later, my face broke out with such a severe case of poison ivy that I couldn’t see, due to the swelling. I visited Father Adrian’s office to tell him I was going home. I’ll never forget his words, “Roy, you brought this on yourself and you will continue to attend school and clean the cafeteria, or face suspension.” He sat me down several weeks later and cited scripture about the fallen nature of man and the relationship between choices and consequences. It was a painful but necessary conversation. I graduated and went on to college, thinking I’d seen the last of Benedictine and Father Adrian.
Fifteen years passed and as I reflected on the profound impact the school and Father had on me and my classmates, I decided to re-engage with the school I found Father Adrian at a school function and reintroduced myself, thinking I’d been long forgotten. He warmly embraced me, saying, “It is so good to see you, Roy, and I’ve been thinking about you”. He went on to recite my college choice, my major, my first employer, my major career advancements/achievements and the names of my children and parents, (all without social media). I suddenly realized he had been following me from afar all those years. Father Adrian’s commitment to me and my classmates extended well beyond our graduation.
He sought neither fame nor fortune, but a higher calling to selflessly mold rebellious teenage boys into responsible young men. He gave all he had to the benefit of others! Our joys became his joy and our character gave purpose to his life’s work, even beyond our years as Benedictine cadets.
I realized after all these years, I didn’t really know his story because he was always asking about ours. Only one man, and yet he had such an impact on thousands of grateful boys. What an amazing example of the exponential impact one purpose driven leader can have on the lives of others!
Each of us impacts the lives of those around us. What kind of legacy do you wish to leave?