But one of the most important lessons she taught me, a lesson that has taken me this long to learn and appreciate, is the lesson about who you know. She went beyond "It's not what you know, it's who you know." No, with my mom, it was "It's not who you know, it's how you use them." This was a lesson she learned from her own mother, a lesson she pushed onto us, my brother and I, every chance she got. It's a lesson she keeps trying to teach me, even today.
She understood the importance of networking. She knew that she didn't have the connections we needed, but she wasn't afraid of reaching out, beyond her circle, into other circles, in order to give us a chance to live out our dreams. Want to be a journalist? Here is the email address of a guy who was friends with a former co-worker with whom I went to see The Rolling Stones with 10 years ago. Getting a PhD? A friend of mine who I went to university with that one year is now president of a college. Contact him. Writing a book? I don't know anyone off the top of my head, but let me ask around. I'll see what I can find.
She tried to lead by example. But she also encouraged us to reach out beyond our circle, like to examine what the parents of the kids we coached swimming did for a living. My brother got some of his first photography work that way. When I told her I was starting my own business, she immediately began to run through the list of all my contacts, as well as her own, in an effort to help me drum up some business.
As I look back at it, it's because of her that I feel comfortable on a social networking site like Twitter or Facebook, comfortable reaching out and asking for help (if you're often on the receiving end of my requests, then you can blame my mom). I don't think my mom, or her mom, ever imagined that their advice could eventually lead me to reach so many different people, but here I am, learning about social media, website development, education reform, charter schools, homeschooling and unschooling. And I am learning that I am a part of something very much larger than myself.
Thanks, Mom. Happy Mother's Day!