Thank you for winking at me.
After a particularly long work day, I pulled into the parking lot underneath University Hall, crawled into the backseat and nursed little 5-month-old JJ. The unread Research Methodologies book rested on the dash. You walked by the car, and you winked. Do you remember that? I do. I was crying. Newly 30 years old, C-suited, mothering, chasing my doctorate and living all my dreams … and yet simultaneously I felt so untethered. Your wink exposed some big and lonely clouds.
Thank you for holding my hand.
Your embrace invited me to see clearly into my own vulnerable motherhood. JJ is 8 years old now. She asks hard questions, she understands service to others, and she will not soon let me forget that she is not an empty vessel but a full human who is both a learner and a teacher. I still don’t ever know if I’m making the right decisions as a mother, but my foundation for trusting myself is strong because you held my hand from her birth through my graduation.
Thank you for running alongside me.
Because you didn’t prescribe my route, I learned how to create professional spaces that embrace full identities and expose purpose as our bottom line. I’ve led organizations such as CoachArt, United Friends of the Children and NewRoot Learning Institute in Chicago. And because you never chose comfort over necessity, I learned the ways my privilege catches my falls (and the responsibility I have to both name and disrupt this). I moderate racial affinity leadership spaces for white folks through Pahara Institute, in Napa, California. You modeled service with actions beyond words; I donated my extra kidney to a stranger about six months ago. The ultimate dream chapter has us embracing the beautiful and resilient city of San Antonio now. I’m relocating with my center rooted in proximity, gratitude, grace, trust, service and curiosity over judgment, leading with heart, taking care of each other and finding for communities what they share that they need.
Anyhow, I cried myself back to good enough, packed up JJ and the book on the dash and headed into class that day. We never talked about how broken I was, you just quietly handed me glue. Thank you for winking at me, for holding my hand, for running alongside me.
We got this. Together.
Kara Allen is the first chief impact officer of Spurs Sports and Entertainment in San Antonio. She earned a doctorate in educational leadership for social justice from the LMU School of Education.