School counselors face a demanding job. Depending upon their school, each counselor tends to the needs of anywhere from 250 to over 600 students. Schedules, testing, and dealing with parents all need to be addressed before any real personal counseling can occur. Some kids really need a pivotal person in their lives, but it’s impossible for any counselor to make a life-changing difference for that many kids. Fortunately, most of those students have other teachers, coaches, or parents to fill that role. But within that huge number of hundreds of counselees, there exist a few young people who need their school counselor to make a meaningful difference in their lives. In the “haystack” of counselees that school counselors must function competently for, there are a few “needles” that must be discovered. It is the opportunity to become “life changers” for a few students in their charge.

My message, when I was involved in the training of school counselors, was for new professionals to “search for needles.” While performing the routine tasks of exam- scheduling, planning courses of study, and career consideration, counselors have the chance to learn more about their young people. Occasionally, what is learned about a student’s personal circumstances (i.e. parents’ divorce, loss of a loved grandparent, or painful breakup with a partner) can provide the potential for an encouraging message or inspirational idea that helps shape a future life. I tell my new counselors that their routine life as a counselor takes on new meaning when their daily activity is “a search for a needle.”

Okay, that sounds cool for a school counselor, but I’m not one! True enough, but like school counselors with a few hundred counselees, we also have hundreds of friends, family, and acquaintances that we deal with each day. Perhaps it is the person at the checkout counter at your grocery store. It could be the widow across the street who lost her spouse five months ago. Maybe it’s one of your daughter’s soccer teammates whose parents recently split up. “Needles” are out there for us to find, but we must keep a sharp eye out for them.

Preventing something is a thankless task. Inspiring someone never generates immediate satisfaction. Sadly, we probably never know the result of our thoughtful message or kind deed. It is an act of faith that good deeds do, in fact, get rewarded via productive outcomes, albeit invisible to us.

At this time of year, when holiday season can be hard for so many, take the time, look for the “needles” in your life, and act accordingly. You’ll know what to do when you encounter one!

Even the smallest act of caring for another person is like a drop of water; it will make ripples throughout the entire pond. Jessy and Bryan Matteo

Always help someone; you might be the only one who does.