My daughter, Lindsey, was taking a history class at Georgia recently. She was talking about a civil rights figure that they were studying. In our conversation, I mentioned to her that a memorable life event was the day I got to introduce that very man (John Lewis). She asked me to tell her all about that day. Instead, I went and found this journal entry that I had made shortly after that day.
Well, I got up and fixed a really large pot of coffee. And, yes, I got over here in the Comfy Chair to see if I was inspired to reflect and try to draw some connections. But I took the first hour and sat here and tried to organize some of the multitude of e-mails that have gone untended the last several days. It was a mix of material and non-material.
Like the e-mail about how our wives and rifles are similar (and not similar). Now that was an e-mail that didn’t need a lot of time. I forwarded it to my buddies who would appreciate the laugh. And then I deleted all evidence that I had any association with it.
Then there were those e-mails on projects where collaboration and thought were required. So I invested time to offer my perspective and become a part of the collaborative effort that hopefully will result in something that is both material and successful.
At one point during this week, I was really feeling tired and overwhelmed. Which task would I attempt to accomplish next? I was looking at the e-mails on the computer screen. I was looking at the stack of papers on my desk. I was thinking about some phone calls and meetings that needed to happen. Then I chose to respond to some e-mails that required slow reading and deeper consideration. As I was in the middle of that reading and consideration, I fluttered over to the stack of papers on my desk and decided to restack them from most important to least important. But before I could complete that, the phone rang and I decided to take that call so I wouldn’t have to put it on the return call list.
After about an hour of running in this circle, I tried to understand what if anything I had accomplished. It struck me that sometimes you just need to proclaim what is important. Put your flag in the ground on that proclamation and charge forward to achieve it.
Friday, I woke up nervous about an introduction that I would give at lunch. This community group that I volunteer time with was hosting a lunch. Their leader asked me to introduce a well-known politician who had been a prominent figure in the civil rights effort. I am intentionally leaving out names because I don’t want us fluttering off on the names and the associated thoughts that spin around the names.
Anyway, it struck me when I was first asked that an honest and sincere introduction would require me to not only learn facts about the speaker but to draw upon any personal connections or reflections that I have and relate those. So I had been spending part of this week thinking about what this man meant to me. Now, I had never ever met this man. I had never ever been involved in a project with this man. But I thought about what this man did. And he had done a lot. He had been “active” in society. He had been a change agent.
Whether you agreed with his politics or his positions, he had impacted you and me. And as I thought about what his voice had said over the years, I realized that it said the same thing that we all say. It asked what is important? Is it fairness? Is is justice? What is important? Now, he had his views on that and you may disagree. But what he did was make that question a valid question for everyone.
No one was or is marginalized–that was his point. He put a flag in the ground. He declared what was important. And in doing that, he gave me an opportunity to do the exact same thing. He helped us all see beyond our limitations—see what was important. So I had a chance to introduce this man and make a statement. And I decided to give it my best effort. I acknowledged his work and I thanked him for making our society think about fairness and justice. He made us think about what was important.
As I left the stage so he could come speak, I extended my hand. He didn’t accept my hand for a mere shake; he grabbed me and embraced me in a hug. That meant a lot to me. He stepped on to the stage and took a moment and caught himself and then thanked me for a heart-felt and soul-felt introduction.
And it hit me that this was important to him as well. We had moved from the stack of papers, we had moved from the e-mails, we had moved from the phone calls and meetings and we were standing right where it was important. Right in the middle of life.
Now this all sounds grand and noble and may even have an edge of self-righteousness. But I think that sometimes what is important gets left behind because of those sort of fears. We fear that we will be called out for being self-aggrandizing. We fear that we will be called emotional.
You know what? Doing what is right is hard work. And sometimes it means you got to step out of the weeds and make a statement. I enjoyed that moment out of the weeds. And, I enjoyed being a small part of thanking a fellow man for the time he spent outside the weeds.