"We are all in this humans race together and it's our job to make sure we all cross the finish line as one."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Who Is Your Yoda?

Recently I sat in my therapist’s office all ready to bark at the moon and lay blame for all my issues on my mother, the kid that aimed at me in dodge ball and possibly Nixon. But the session turned into a warm and fuzzy remembrance of the man who turned my life around.

In high school we had a Dean of Discipline, OK he was the assistant principal, named Phil Ross. Mr. Ross waited at the doors to the school every morning the way a fisherman waited for his first catch of the day. On this breezy fall morning it was I who would find myself entangled in his net. Around the second period, I was bolting down the stairs tragically late for my class, my long hair caked all over my brow and one Mr. Ross waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs.

Called into his office, I sat quietly across from him and a dialogue ensued between two people who never took the time to know each other. Two periods later, feet up on his desk, lessons about life and laughter abound, Phil Ross released me back into the wild. “And don’t let me catch you doing that again Sullivan!” He bellowed for effect. “Yes Sir Mr. Ross.” I added to keep the masquerade going. He winked at me and my life had changed.

From that day forward I was never consciously late again. I was quicker to stop and take in what was going on around me academically. I was faster on the draw to get to know someone I didn’t understand. More importantly I had become a friend of Phil Ross. A man who understood children and teens better than Cosby himself.

Phil believed in me. I remember when I produced my first Off, WAY Off-Broadway show with a production company of my own creation. It was in a room that made a Starbucks restroom look palatial and 8 people turned up. Phil Ross was one of them. After the show was over Phil came over to me and placed my forehead to his and said something to me that again, altered my life. With tears in his eyes he said, “I am so proud of you. You did this.” I countered with a “but there only 8 people here.” He took my hands and said, “Never doubt what you can accomplish. Have faith in yourself and others will believe in you.”

Phil and his wife Louise, never had children of their own. His students, his basketball team, we all became his, their, children. I think of him often but the years moved quickly. As I prepared to leave my therapist she said, “So, Phil was Ty’s Yoda. You know what you must do now?”
“Find him. Tell him how much he meant to me and introduce him to my daughter.” I said.
“And let him know that you still believe.”

We learn to be leaders, motivators, believers from the most unlikely places. Who is or was your “Yoda”? Share their name here for all to know them. Speak well of them and often and their lessons will live on.

May the Force be with You…Always. And so it goes…


  1. Great post, Ty. You made me cry.

  2. Thank you, Ty! This is beautiful.

    My "Yoda" was Asimenia Papadaki (long, Greek name, I know) and she taught me that "there are many shades of gray between black and white", at a time when I needed to learn that lesson the most.
    She saw the person I was to become, before I even knew she existed, and for that, I will be forever grateful. It was as if she held that vision for me when I didn't know how to.

    I wrote about her on my blog, two years ago. I often think of her as I see my teenage daughters seeking for their "Yoda" in a world that often lacks inspiration.

    You made my day and took me down memory lane. Thank you and may the force be with you as well:-)

  3. Beautiful post indeed, my Friend. My Yoda was a man named Dave Busby, a pastor from my youth who helped me to find Grace and acceptance at a time when I was an awkward, out of place teen. Many years later, his words of unconditional love would carry me through a difficult divorce and now, into single motherhood. Sadly, he passed away before I was able to tell him how his life impacted mine. But thank you for giving me this opportunity to remember him today.

  4. My Yoda was my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Dinnerstein. In his short span in 6th grade, he saw something in me and gave me a push to express myself through art and poetry. He gave me special assignments writing haiku poetry and creating miniature tempera paintings. He left abruptly during the school year and rumor has it that he was drafted to Vietnam. I kept those poems and my paintings and have never forgotten him; for drawing out my creative spark at the age of 11.

  5. Yes! Keep on inspiring others - you have a gift for story telling. Please let me know if you find Phil Ross :) I'm exhausted, I can't think of my Yoda(s) but you do have a Yoda touch on your audience. Your positivity and energy radiates through the computer screen, I can't imagine what it will be like in real life!


  6. Great post. I'm lucky to say I've had several Yodas in my life - all who showed up at the moment I needed them. My high school speech teacher, Mrs. Tilton, who encouraged my speaking and was an all around positive female role model. A writing workshop leader, Mary Nilsen, who told me the story of a painful time in my life was worth telling. My mother, who encouraged me and never let me stop writing a memoir of childhood stories. Thanks for encouraging me to remember them all again.