The Courage to be Vulnerable: An Ode to Rita
Sierra Ward //
The other day I went to get some food with a co-worker. When the counter boy asked for my name I told him. The co-worker said she could tell I wasn’t a pentester because after realizing how vulnerable the world is, they have a difficult time being open with their personal information on ANY level.
In an industry that deals on a daily basis with the threat of evil it’s easy to become jaded and cynical about the world. Perhaps that is part of the draw that John has. He bucks the norm and is more open than many people I know, and not just in information security. He has an impervious ability to be vulnerable and candid, and that’s appealing, maybe ESPECIALLY in an industry like ours. That attitude continues to trickle down to the relationships we have with our co-workers and the ways he interacts with us, and we interact with each other.
This is no less true than about how much he’s shared publicly about his mother, and their family’s struggle in the last few months to face her cancer diagnosis.
Last week I had the privilege to attend one of their kid’s birthday parties (previously I was a tutor to their children) and I got to see Rita. As usual she was in brave spirits, and though tired, was her usual happy laughing self. But the latest prognosis is not a good one, and while she was able to fight it off for a bit, it seems it may be a loosing battle more quickly than hoped.
Somehow she and I ended up on a bench at the edge of the kitchen together. We got to have a candid talk about how she’s come to be okay with facing death, and saying goodbye to her family. I felt a little guilty that I was monopolizing her time, but also quite lucky to get to spend a few more moments with her. As we age, we all come closer and closer to facing the deaths of the people closest to us and it is sobering to see someone who can face it with dignity, grace and love. Her testimony of peace was deeply moving.
John came and sat nearby and listened to our conversation. He mentioned how surprised he was that so many co-workers have broken down in tears upon hearing about Rita’s diagnosis. But it doesn’t surprise me. In a world with so much brokenness, and so much bad, to meet a kind and loving person seems even more special and rare. Rita said, “I still don’t understand what I did. Usually it was just emailing people to ask about attachments and receipts and to clarify things.” And yet… it is her kindness in all her small ways, her deep care of each of us – her love that is so fantastically moving in the face of such cynicism in a dark world.
Rita has been a pillar of BHIS, not just because she’s on the accounting team (the gears that run any business) but also because of her unwavering kindness and good cheer. In many ways she is the token mom of BHIS and all of its employees.
She has shown us that we do not necessarily need to go do great things to change the world, we may change it by loving deeply and genuinely in many small ways – our sphere of influence spreading even beyond our wildest dreams.
Rita will leave a deep and lasting legacy, not only because she has raised such brilliant and wonderful children who carry on her nature of kindness and love, but also because of how she has impacted each of our lives. It has been and is an honor to know you, Rita!
July 26, 2016 @ 3:43 pm
What a beautiful post. One that resonated deeply for me. I bring a great deal of me to work and can’t help ignoring natural silos in the InfoSec space. A legacy from my own role model who battled cancer with huge dignity. She taught me to respectfully shoot the breeze with everyone from the checkout assistant, to the MD. Then, when her fight was in full swing, she gave permission to share her story to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer…the ultimate openness.
Thank you for telling us about Rita and the overwhelming effect of her and her son’s many small kindnesses and I wish you all great peace and strength.
July 26, 2016 @ 3:45 pm
Thanks so much for you comment.
September 12, 2016 @ 9:33 am
I never met Rita. I took 504 from John a couple of years ago and have bumped into him a few times since then.
The ultimate success we achieve if we choose to have children is founded in kindness. Thanks for sharing this example and I wish peace to all of the BHIS family.
September 12, 2016 @ 9:39 am
The beauty of her impact is felt around the world because of her influence and the way she raised her children to be kind and generous. John is one of the kindest most generous people I know – and if you took that class, I’m sure you know this too.