I moved back to Maine 17 years ago and during 14 of them, we have had the same Secretary of State. I quickly gained a dislike for him. Not him personally but because his political persuasion and mine were diametrically opposed. I can’t remember over the years ever agreeing with him on much of anything and since it is common knowledge that my opinions and perspectives are pristine, he was obviously always wrong.
I read in the paper the other day that he had termed out and was leaving the office. I was not upset. I read the article about his retirement more out of curiosity then anything else, and found a different man hidden behind the one I thought I knew. I say the man I knew because in reality, I didn’t know him at all. Nothing outside of what I read in the news. But here he was, preparing to leave office and, ironically, he said that some of the things he will remember most are things that didn’t make the news.
As the top official in the agency that runs the Department of Motor Vehicles, he apparently took a hands on approach, including serving occasionally as a driver’s license examiner who gives road tests to license applicants. He went up a couple of points in my mind right there. As such, he said he remembers the time he made a teenager, battling terminal cancer, smile.
The seventeen year old girl had been unable to complete the 70 hours of supervised driving under state law for taking a drivers exam. Becoming aware of this, he arranged an honorary road test for her in the parking lot of a closed K-Mart. The girl’s parents rode along in the back seat while the teen, with a morphine pump slung over her shoulder, performed the mock road test. He told her she would have passed the real road test, and presented her with a replica motor vehicle registration plate with her name stamped on it. He said she smiled, then hugged him, then started to cry.
Unfortunately, the girl passed away three months later. He said he got a message from her parents advising him that his action created the first smile they had seen from their daughter in months.
He went on to say that in this business, you get to touch people and you sometimes don’t realize it, but they touch you back and it’s an enormous gift. The reality is, in any business and in life in general, you get to touch and be touched by so many people. And it is an enormous gift, one that he just gave to me. I am guilty of passing unmerited judgement on another who, not unlike most everyone, quietly does the things that make us rise above. The things that don’t make the news, but we never intended them to. We did them because they might make a difference, no guarantees.
I thank him for that. Lesson learned. It is not mine to judge as we never really know another’s heart. I understand he is now running for State Auditor. I don’t know if that is an appointed position or not, but if not, I’ll vote for him. The man, not the politician.