Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Many Ways We Inspire

I felt such sadness hearing about the AIDS researchers who were on the Malaysia Air flight that was shot down over Ukraine.  This NPR story gave interesting details about one of them, Joep Lange: 

"Colleagues said Lange's success as an activist was largely a tribute to his personality. His humor was dry and a bit wry, but his manner was gentle. Stories of Lange's kindness abound.

He insisted on making Gayle's frequent layovers in Amsterdam comfortable, even though she would often arrive at dawn. Lange would pick her up at 6 a.m. and take her to his house for coffee, a stroll, a shower or quick nap. I'd always say, 'Oh Joep, it's too early. And he'd say, 'No, no, I'll be there.'

It will be hard for anyone to replace Lange, Gayle says. But she is confident that Lange's inclusive style will ensure that his work will continue, even after his death.

'The thing about a good leader is that they don't try to do it all by themselves,' Gayle says. 'They build teams. And Joep has built great teams wherever he's gone. So there are people who are poised and ready to take on the work that he started.'"

It was a quick story, but it said so much to me about what makes a good human and an enduring legacy.  I thought about what I'd like people to say about me when I'm dead, and that news story about covers it.  I'd like to have done important work, but not to have lost sight of the humans around me.  I want people to tell stories of my compassion and kindness.  I want to have inspired the people around me, so that there will be the will to endure in doing the important work when I'm gone.

There are weeks when I feel like I've done no important work at all, when I simply corral e-mails.  And then I have a day like yesterday, when I meet a friend for lunch, and she gives me a birthday card.  On this card, she wrote about what she admired in me.

Here's a choice quote that I want to record so that I remember that people are paying attention, and the way we live our lives does matter, even when we're unsure that it does:  "When I read your blogs or your poems, I'm reminded that to truly live one's creative life is a choice, and I watch you live that creative, extraordinary life all the time.  It's so very inspiring to watch!  Through your example, I am reminded that t creative life, lived honestly, is a true joy."

Wow!  What a great birthday present--and so very needed in my work week that consisted of cleaning up my e-mail inbox, which always makes me reflect on how so many of the e-mail exchanges are about very ephemeral stuff, not terribly important when written, even less important later.  It's been a week of paperwork and shifting deadlines and lots of angst from others that I cannot alleviate.

I needed that reminder that I am more than the sum of my e-mails.  And if I'm being honest, I had some of those moments this week at work too.  I helped students with schedule snafus, I helped to finalize some of the stuff from the move that remains unfinished, I tried to be present for everyone, even if I couldn't always help.  That quality of being present:  it may seem like the least important thing, but it may be the most important.

It sets a good example, and more people are watching than I realize at the moment.  May I always be an inspiration!

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