The beautiful young man standing before me was physically strong and soul weary. I could tell as soon as I asked the standard, "How ya doin?" His "fine" was of the "not-so-great" variety.
We aren't friends. I've only met him a couple of times and both of those were at professional functions. But he's standing there, waiting. So I go deeper.
Sure enough, he's ready to unload. A few minutes later, I've learned the job that has us both scrambling at the moment was a distraction. He went to school for architecture. He then got into a political science class and with his personality found himself the target of recruiting by candidates. Several campaigns later, he's ready to return to the classroom and build something other than ideas. (Though his ideas for buildings still include using materials and financing that will help the "little guy.")
I enjoyed listening. I felt no need to fix him. And after spending a few minutes with his returned dream, he was energized once again. That's when it felt ok to tell him my favorite metaphor.
When I was just out of school, I had the privilege of starting fast and furious on the ladder climb. I had the personality to propel me. And, I soon learned that folks love to look at the flying kite, colorful and bright, darting in and out, taking risks along the treetops and not just surviving but sometimes taking your breath away with its daring and the brillance of the sun behind it.
The thing was -- and at least I knew then as well as now -- the kite is only as good as whoever holds the string. She/he is the strategist, the real risk-taker (and if you've read The Kite Runner you know how strategic the role really is). And though the attention is never on them, without them, there's no flying.
"I'm aware now, in the new roles I'm exploring, that I no longer am the kite. That's for folks like you or the two we're helping get into office," I told him. "I'm happy to hold the string."
"That's good!" his face beamed as he affirmed the metaphor's usefulness. And then more to himself than to me, "Yeah, that's really good."
I thought so.