Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Two Poignant Events--Blessings of Cumulative and Singular Presence

I am someone who thrives on trying to make a difference for others.  Some days, I just focus on making a difference but there are no words spoken about it.  That is okay.  From day to day the difference can be small, and I am simply hoping that over time the difference will add up to something that is big and notable.  Other times, there will be a singular event that makes a difference to someone and I get to know right away. 

It’s not every day I get either type of feedback—the cumulative or the immediate.  Yesterday, I was lucky enough to get both.

It started even before my run, and I run early.  I’ve run with the same dear friend nearly every Tuesday going back more than two years and most Tuesdays going back more than four.  On the weeks we can’t fit in a run on Tuesday, we often find a way to adapt our schedules and fit in a run on another day.  Last week she shared with me a heartbreaking diagnosis for her three year old dog.  Over the years I have written words of thanks, words of encouragement, and words of congratulations.  Last week, I put pen to paper (yes, I really did before typing it up) and wrote words about dealing with grief that will come at some point.  Even my words acknowledged I can’t fix the grief, but I can be present.  The type of presence that is needed will be determined by my friend.  I have not put any words to a tune in a long time.  So, not only did I share the words (put on a background that ended up in my phone photo album for no apparent reason), but I also used my friend’s acoustic guitar for a little accompaniment.  It was an emotional moment before our run, and she was thankful.  I am blessed to be surrounded by friends who are empathetic and who join together to make each other’s days brighter. This is part of my purpose for being alive.

Then, at the close of the day, when clearing some email, I found a note in my Inbox.  It was from the last PhD student for whom I had been an academic advisor at the school of public health before I moved to the business school within the university for which I work.  I had been at his dissertation defense just the day before.  He thanked me for introducing him to a particular research area and for being a good mentor.  I actually hadn’t expected such thanks.  I had handed him off to another advisor when I switched schools.  I had sometimes taken a long time to get back to him.  But he saw the glass being half full rather than half empty.  Rather than looking at what I had not done, he noticed what I had introduced him to,  what I had pointed out while he was working on his dissertation, and what advice I had been able to give him.  In other words, he focused on my presence rather than on my absence, and being acknowledged as a mentor is always humbling.

I realize not every day will be accompanied by two events as poignant as yesterday.  But days like yesterday are the days that allow me to clearly see the return on the investment I make in my efforts to brighten others’ worlds.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Friends and Water

Today at Catholic masses around the world, the gospel reading from John featured Jesus and a Samaritan woman at a well.  The priest at my church gave a brief homily with a great point. A point that I think anyone—regardless of faith or with no faith at all—can relate to.

The priest referred to Jesus as befriending the woman.  With that, he then tried to relate friends and water, seeking an analogy. 

As he continued to work toward the analogy, he mentioned teaching a class to first graders and asking about what water brings.  One of the kids answered, “The gift of life.” “Very true,” said the priest in his homily.  That gave him the lead in he needed for the analogy. 

So, he turned to talking about friends.  Not a list of hundreds of friends on social media.  But dear friends who have changed our lives.  Perhaps there is no friend to whom each of us owes the gift of life, but each of us has friends who have made an impact on our lives or who have changed our lives.

That allowed the priest to encourage us to be just as thankful for those friends as we are for other gifts in our lives.  People matter.  We should acknowledge that they matter.  We should tell them that they matter.  Finally, we should work to be gifts for others as much as they are gifts to us.  Not just remotely and by emails and texts.  Rather, let friends hear us and visit when we can.  That level of friendship and the gift it brings deserves the attention that can only happen in person or in real time conversation.

These are words of wisdom that I know inspire me, and I’d hope would be inspiring to all.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Difference Between One and Many

Walking my dog around the block
We came upon a single grey bird
Who flapped its wings
And caught our attention.
Yielding just a glance to the side.
To see the bird rising almost straight up
Into the morning sky.

But the day before I was jogging
Along 30th street.
I passed by an alley and
My attention was drawn by a sound.
I couldn’t tell whether I’d missed a car coming,
But it didn’t sound much like a car.
It sounded a bit like a train.
It sounded a bit like a gust of wind.
Regardless of what it was,
It commanded my full attention.
I turned and saw what looked like dozens
Or perhaps hundreds of birds
Rising out of a back yard toward the sky
Synchronized and together.
Moving like a single grey cloud rising.
My full concentration on the group
Even if just for a moment.

The difference between one and many.