The Rest of the Story: Part 1
This is a story I think needs to be shared, however I am not sure where to share it. At first I thought about it as an Epilogue for the biography, but I don’t think it is a good fit for that. So I will share it here. Some of you will be especially interested in the details of the story; others of you probably not so much. But there are lessons in the story, particularly one that stands out for me. The story is too long for one blog article so I will share it in parts. Here goes Part 1.
William Glasser passed away in his home, the home that he built after first moving to Los Angeles in 1954, on Friday evening, August 23, 2013. He was 88 years old.
I had wanted to place a copy of his biography in his hands while he was still living, but I will miss being able to do that by just a couple of months. While writing the manuscript I shared portions of it with him and he affirmed the story that was taking shape, so he was aware of at least that much. Something happened last summer, though, that helps me to better accept that he never held a copy of the completed book in his hands. That “something” goes like this –
The annual International Glasser Conference was held at Loyola Marymount University in southern California during June, 2012. Compared to most international conferences the planning took place rather quickly, however this was due, to a great extent, to Glasser’s health. It was clear that he was not doing so well and Institute board members realized that if colleagues and friends from around the world were going to be able to thank him for all he had done that a conference should be planned as soon as possible, and that it should take place as close to Glasser’s home as possible.
When I received the announcement about the conference, which also included a call for breakout proposals, I immediately felt that I should submit a proposal that would serve as an update on Glasser’s biography. I had been less involved with the Institute since 2008 and wanted to let people know that the manuscript was almost done. More than that, though, it would be a way for me to say thank you to Glasser for what he meant to me and for what we had accomplished together.
I went ahead and completed a breakout proposal called My Time with Bill, and then waited to hear from the organizers. Several weeks later I heard back from them and was surprised, and a bit miffed, to learn that they wondered whether I would be alright with doing a half a breakout, instead of a full time allotment breakout. My ego pretty quickly echoed thoughts like, Well, if they don’t think this is important enough for a full breakout then I don’t need to do it all. I didn’t respond to their email immediately, though, and thought about the situation for a bit. Within a couple of days I realized that this wasn’t about me or my ego. The conference was about him, about Bill, and it was about me saying thank you to him. And so I emailed back and said, Sure, I’ll take whatever time you give me. I had already begun communicating with Jim Coddington, the person I was going to split the breakout time with, when I received word that things had changed and that he and I would each be given a full breakout slot. I was fine with that, too, and proceeded to prepare the presentation.
Not long after that I contacted the organizers to reserve a room at Loyola during the conference. I had wrestled with what to do about lodging, but eventually settled on staying in one of the dorms right there on campus. I indicated that I wanted a private room, thinking my dorm days and living with other guys was behind me. I learned, however, that there were no more private rooms available and that I would have to share a room with someone. (The words surprised and being miffed come to mind.) Once again, my ego weighed in–Why even go to the conference when it felt that at every turn things felt difficult? I didn’t want to share a room with a stranger, probably listening to his snoring at night (or him listening to mine). But again, after thinking about it, I remembered that this wasn’t about me. It was about saying thank you to Glasser. So I let the room reservation people know that it was fine and to put me with whomever.
The conference turned out to be an amazing experience for me! Even the lodging arrangements contributed to the positivity. When I checked in to my room I discovered that one of the two wonderful gentlemen with whom I shared the rather spacious accommodations was Rhon Carleton. Rhon and I were acquaintances before the conference. We knew each other through various Glasser Institute functions. During the conference, though, we were able to become much closer friends. He and I are somewhat unique in that while we are fully immersed and committed to the principles of choice theory, we come at these principles from a faith perspective. Rhon is a former chaplain in the armed services, and now serves as a pastor in Mississippi. I am a professor in a teacher credential program in a liberal arts college sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist church. My first book, Soul Shapers, alerted SDA teachers to the incredible ways in which Glasser’s ideas informed and supported the journey of faith. During the conference, Rhon and I had many discussions on these kinds of topics. As a result, my lodging arrangements actually added to the quality of my experience.
I met or re-connected with many wonderful people as the conference progressed. Those who were aware of the Glasser biography project expressed interest in it and wanted to know how close we were to seeing it in print. One of the people I was surprised to see at the conference was Diane Gossen. Diane was viewed as controversial by some because of her central role in the organizational schism of 1996. She had authored a program called Restitution, which became very successful in schools looking for practical help with effective student discipline. Diane was a long time Glasser trainer and had tapped into control theory principles as she developed Restitution. Yet, when Glasser rejected all school discipline plans, including his own Ten Step Plan, he rejected Restitution, too. Ultimately, Diane left the Institution, along with others, and continued on her own. When I saw her walk into the general eating area as the conference began, it had been over 15 years since she had attended a Glasser function. Maybe her presence, more than anything else, underscored to me what the conference really was about. It was about saying thank you to an important person in a lot of our lives. It was about saying good by, too. In spite of whatever had happened in the past, Diane was proclaiming loud and clear that Glasser was that important to her! It meant a great deal to me to see her there.
I also met Barry Karlin at the conference. He was very interested in the Glasser biography project and, as it happens, I like talking with people who are interested in projects on which I am working. He had an energy about him and I enjoyed listening to his ideas.
When it came time for my breakout the room began filling as I set up my computer and got things ready. By the time I started the room was packed to overflowing, however it wasn’t the numbers in the room that caught my eye. As I scanned the room it hit me what I was about to do. Glasser himself was there, along with Carleen. He was in a wheelchair, as he had been throughout the conference, yet he seemed very present to me. Many who had been part of the Glasser organization for many years, some since almost the very beginning, were seated there, too. Diane Gossen was part of those in attendance as well. Diane and Bill in the same room after all these years. I couldn’t believe it! I looked at the faces looking at me, so many of them people I had written about or mentioned in the biography. I thought, with a note of panic, Who am I to be talking about Glasser’s journey when these people experienced the journey with him.
That concludes Part 1; stay tuned for Part 2
Those of you in the northern California area, remember to join us for our first Choice Theory Study Group on Sabbath afternoon, September 21, at 2:00 PM at Foothills Elementary in St. Helena. Mark it in your calendar right away!
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Jim, thank you for this. It is very meaningful to many of us who have lived through this story and who went to the conference to tell Bill how important he was to us and to say goodbye.
Thanks for sharing your perspective on and participation in that momentous meeting. I’ll wait for part 2.
Dear Jim, I attended all your talks at LMU and that very special one that you speak of above. I am eternally grateful to you for taking those steps to make the talk happen. The atmosphere was indescribable and for me hearing your story, of such a great man’s story, was the highlight of the conference. As I walked out of the room afterwards I was struck by just how fortunate I had been to hear you speak with Bill and Carleen there. It was a very emotional day for me. I had moved mountains to make it to California from Australia to attend the conference knowing that I would never again get this opportunity. What a wonderful choice it was. Thank you.
It was a very emotional day for me, too, Rebekah. At times even surreal – like, is this happening? I wondered if others caught the magic of those moments. Your comments confirm that I was not just dreaming. It was a incredibly special moment, but it was real. I look forward to sharing Part 2 of the story tomorrow.
Jim, a lovely prologue to your anticipated book; thank you; like Dickens, you are serializing a story and your audience, I am sure, waits. I had had some knee surgery in May and was not cleared by the surgeon to attend the conference, so your story here puts me there, so thanks to you; I appreciate it!
I am honored to have you join the blog, Suzy. You have meant so much to the success of the Institute and of Bill over the years. I am glad the recent blog helped you experience last year’s conference in some way. You were missed.
I’ve discovered that I can come to the Choice Theory Study Group on Sabbath. Is there a special program at the (Elms)Haven church beforehand? What time does that service begin?
Glad you will be able to join us on Sabbath. The Haven church service begins at 11:00 AM. There is a meal served afterward. Our study group will begin at 2:00.
I have been thinking of you Jim. Thank you for so honoring Bill. Diane
I didn’t know you were even aware of the blog. I am glad, though, that you saw this story. I meant for it to honor you as well. I appreciated our visits a great deal. I hope you are doing well in every way.