We all live several degrees of separation away from people we don’t know but whose stories might shed useful light. Sometimes we’re lucky enough that they walk right up to us.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend’s Facebook share caught my eye. My old rugby pal Allan Corless had seen a piece about one of his former college teammates at Villanova. https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/man-gave-up-high-paying-job-to-work-with-homeless-teens-good-talk/?fbclid=IwAR3mby27-J50jBiQs7mDbtbCFV1Pnt2kpMr6PXtzELbsujrZnBtphyLVMwM#.XNFtuDLPp_l.facebook

The story revealed that after graduation, Mark Redmond had moved to New York City, where the young man held a Madison Avenue job with a bright future—a classic foothold on the American Dream of financial and career success. One weekend, he visited his alma mater, where a friend dragged him to a campus program about volunteer opportunities.

One thing led to another. Story of your life, right?

That certainly proved true for Redmond. The 8-minute video clip by Redmond tells the story far better than I could, so please watch it.

It’s an amazing and fascinating story about a young man who let himself look at his future through a different lens. Today he is Director of Spectrum Youth and Family Services in Vermont. (Photo by James Buck) In his twenties, with the material world his for the taking, he found himself at a turning point, and was brave enough to risk everything in a move that ran counter to most of what society and culture tells us we should do.

His speech tells HIS story, but it’s largely about someone else—Marge Crawford, the woman who presented him with the crazy idea that he found irresistible. How many times do our lives turn on an encounter with someone who gets us to re-think?

The consequences for us may not be as dramatic and life-altering as in the case of Mark Redmond, but opportunities find us again and again in life. What we do in response is what makes all the difference. Those moments can become key turning points.

I love Mark Redmond’s story. Listen to his amazing telling. He doesn’t waste a second. And what I love most is his recognition of the role that Marge Crawford played, as his role-model, muse, and mentor.

If we look closely at our own lives, it’s hard not to notice the people who play a key role. What greater thing could be said about people than that they helped us become better people.


Ned Bachus is the author of Open Admissions: What Teaching at Community College Taught Me About Learning (Wild River Books, 2017) and of the “Turning Points” weekly blog on nedbachus.com. City of Brotherly Love (Fleur-de-Lis Books), his book of stories, was awarded the 2013 IPPY Gold Medal for Literary Fiction. Bachus’s article, “Learning From Turning Points in Our Teaching Lives,” will be featured in the May issue of NEA Higher Education Advocate, which reaches over 150,000 college faculty in the U.S.