How often do you pause, look around, and consider the web of relationships that are the tapestry of your life? Recently I had a perfect storm of experiences that forced me into this type of reflection, and deep appreciation.
A few weeks ago I had the honor of celebrating some of the contributions made by my dear teacher, mentor, colleague and friend, Barb Kistler. Barb created the President’s Leadership Program (PLP) at Colorado State University, my alma mater, which is now going into its 25th year. I was a student participant during the second year, and I have to say, that Program, and Barb, changed my life. My mind was exposed to new ideas. I learned to think, to ask questions, to channel my youthful and often frustrated energy toward constructive causes. And Barb, well, watching her helped me decide what I wanted to pursue for my own life’s work—social justice and developing the next generation of leaders. Joined by my father and six year old son, Shiloh, I gave a speech in front of this year’s PLP students—all 125 of them—thanking Barb and sharing words of encouragement with the students as they begin this most special journey.
My father reminded me about the first time he heard me give a speech, 25 years earlier, and how proud he has always been of me. I, in turn, was proud that my young son could see this exchange and begin to understand himself as part of a community—a precious ecosystem in which we all play a vital role.
The same afternoon we honored Barb, my father got a call from the hospital. He was on the lung transplant list and they had one for him. Two weeks later he is home and well; better than could have been imagined. Our precious ecosystem now expands to include the generous organ donor who made my father’s transplant possible—and gave us more time with him.
Since my visit to CSU and father’s transplant, I gave another speech but this time as part of a graduation ceremony for the Florida Department of State’s Leadership Program, for which I was the designer and facilitator. I hope I played the same role for these professionals that Barb played for me. During my speech I reminded the Program participants–whom I have grown to know, respect and love over the year–that they, too, are now part of my ecosystem. We are all connected and therefore obligated to care for and nurture the well-being of one another. We have the power to create virtuous cycles.
I urge you, Reader, to take this message to heart. We are part of the same ecosystem. Despite your busy schedules that demand so much of your time and emotional energy, take time to reflect on and nurture your pieces of our precious community.