Never underestimate the importance of a moment, brief encounter or a lifelong relationship that enables you to grow more deeply and richly into the person you were designed to be. All of the people you’ve ever met, spent time with or just observed have made an impression or impact in how you shape your life and how you will touch the lives of others.
Two years ago I participated in the local Leadership Rutherford program. To my surprise I was asked to deliver the graduation address. It was a remarkable time to reflect on how the program affected me personally and the 39 other amazing people who wanted to know more about how our community (and beyond) runs and works. To shape the speech I actually used a quote that I first heard over 20 years ago, from a new friend at the time—“I am a part of all whom I’ve met”—and have never heard since. I then reflected on all the personalities and “isms” of the people in our group, along with the characteristics we observed from the folks that we learned from throughout the program. The result was an unrivaled immediate standing ovation, like I had never seen before. What made the biggest impression on me was the fact that they were moved enough to be affected this way. They had identified with things that were shared in that speech. It made me appreciate all the people who made enough of an impression on me to include those things and be able to make others feel it, too!
Here are some excerpts from that speech:
Sometimes we ride the wave of enthusiasm or excitement for the promise of something remarkable to happen in our lives, the quest to discover something better or even transformational. This is what happens when people talk about Leadership Rutherford. They create this “you just have to experience this to know” kind of buzz. So, we make a decision to ride this wave with the anticipation of feeling this for ourselves. Like anything in life, there is no better way to appreciate or understand something than to live it . . . even for a moment. I now see this is especially true for this program.
A favorite quote of mine is “I am a part of all whom I’ve met.” Meaning, from everyone we meet there are little nuggets we take away with us. They become a part of us. Maybe it’s a gesture, a saying, a thought or idea. It connects us. Sometimes the connection is simple, sometimes profound, sometimes disturbing. It increases our capacity for understanding, compassion, tolerance, forgiveness, for calls to action. Throughout our journey we met so many people who provide us an opportunity to be or stay connected through community. Some are quiet, working tirelessly behind the scenes, while others who are more animated work the front lines, delivering the services most of us take for granted.
So, what to make or take away from all of this? I am forever changed. I look at things differently. I have a sharper awareness for what is going on around me. Wherever I am, local or in another city or state, when I see a road sign or a detention center, police station, traffic light, ambulance, school, art show, singer/songwriter or small business I think of the people behind all that trying to bring their unique sense to a project, product, service or performance to make our quality of life better. They are people just like us . . . truly. They have jobs, families, hobbies, personal struggles, dreams. They show up, appreciated or not, to make a difference.
It is no longer acceptable to sit on the observation deck of life and complain when something isn’t being done the way you think it should be. Be willing to get up and become a part of something. Offer your insight, guidance or perspective. Offer to actively help in your own way.
Lastly, what Leadership Rutherford means to me. It provided me exactly what I had hoped. I got a firsthand glimpse into my community; how it works, lives, breathes, survives and, in many cases, how it thrives! It answered many questions I had often only wondered about. It showed me there is still more to learn. I discovered new places, culture, creativity, personality and lots of needs centered around cultivating a better quality of living—and that was just on our bus rides!
I’d like to leave you with another favorite quote by Howard Thurman:
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it! Because what the world needs is people who have come alive!”