Emerald City and the Rainbow

April 06, 2023 | 489 Views

Emerald City and the Rainbow

Louise Ellis

Instructional Designer | Scooter's Coffee

"As a trainer over the past 30 years, I've always been passionate about helping people reach their full potential. But now, my focus has shifted from simply imparting knowledge and skills to assisting trainers in charting their careers and work life. Hospitality trainers are uniquely suited for this task because we have the expertise to teach specific skills, empathy, and understanding to connect with our learners on a personal level. By empowering individuals to chart their course, we can profoundly impact their lives and the world around us." - Louise Ellis

Many years ago, I was working and supporting a disabled woman named Kim in her home. Kim, orphaned on the streets as a 2-year-old and ill with brain infection encephalitis in a foreign city, was eventually adopted by an American family. 

Throughout my 10 years of hands-on training with Kim, her ability to perform daily living tasks declined, and she started exhibiting new and peculiar behaviors. It was like she was a different person every 3-6 months, which presented many challenges. I was tasked with writing new learning strategies and behavior management plans and utilizing creative ways to re-teach her skills that she once had. It wasn’t until several years later, and at a point that Kim was a shell of herself, that she was diagnosed and suffering from frontal lobe degeneration disease. The doctor explained that her brain was dying, which was likely attributed to her childhood illness. She forgot everything she had ever experienced, learned, and who she was. My organization pushed me to create learning programs and insisted I continue to try and re-teach her. However, she eventually fell asleep and passed away, and her death deeply impacted me more than I realized.

She loved and frequently sang “Over the Rainbow.” It was a soothing tune. She didn’t sing the entire song, only a few disconnected verses here and there. It was the only song she remembered.

Feeling the loss of Kim and without a purpose, I decided I wanted to do something different. Even though I was promoted and took on management and training roles professionally, I yearned to help other trainers and do something different. Something that I could embrace as a purpose in life. 

Asking myself, how can I be of service to others? How can I contribute to the community of trainers and serve the highest good? At this time, I was a single mother of one young adult in college and two in high school. Investing time and energy into my development took six years of college. Eventually, I graduated with a Master’s in Instructional Design. I was ready to move on.

Louise Ellis enjoys CHART 103 Seattle Hospitality Training Conference

Fast forward three years later, and I found myself in the Emerald City of Seattle at a CHART conference. There, I discovered the theme of the conference, “Path to Everywhere.” Over the next few days, I attended sessions led by L&D leaders in hospitality training. I finished a complete Hospitality Training Competencies track and found out there was to be a pinning ceremony for all that completed a track.

At the beginning of the pinning ceremony, a song began to flow down from above, “Over the Rainbow,” played by Israel Kamakawiwoʻole. Chills overtook my body, and when my name was called, I stood to walk up to the front of the large room. I reached my hand out to accept the little red bag with a pin, and in a flash, I remembered Kim and the song that brought her so much comfort. Then, as if all around me faded, I heard her say, “You made it, Lou!”

The next day, as everyone was leaving to go home, I was waiting in line at a coffee shop. A fellow attendee wearing a red shirt (Kim’s favorite color) approached me and asked how I felt after completing my first CHART conference. The woman was a long-time participant in the organization, and had completed all 12 competencies tracks. I responded that I had learned so much, made so many new friends, and would be returning. Then, a chance encounter at the airport brought me face-to-face with the same woman from the coffee shop. Her travel companion called her Kim, and I welled up in tears and was again reminded of my Kim.

From 2012 to 2023, I was in many ways lost, but now I have found my way. Kim’s memory inspired me to chart a new course in life. I want to share that inspiration and assist other trainers along their charted path. I am ready to accept my path everywhere and hopefully help a few people along the way. Thank you, Kim Ahna.

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