Tuesday, April 22, 2014

In Search of Inspiration

“Unfortunately, we don't have all that many good examples to follow. The people that our cultures label as "successful" are the ones who have become wealthy or famous or celebrities, but the truly successful people--those who have become happy and who are living happy, loving, giving lives--aren't often featured in our newspapers or newscasts. We see the politicians and the criminals and the athletes and the entertainment "stars," but we don't see the people who can truly inspire us to be happy by being just who we are.” 
― Tom Walsh

The author of this quote, Tom Walsh, business columnist for the Detroit Free Press, could be describing our current culture, at least as I see it.  And coming across his quote to a degree reassuring. I'm not just an old-fashioned prude, or out of touch - not with it.  I was beginning to wonder if I were sounding like my mother in her final years, something I vowed I would never do. But I have felt this way for some time now.

It's not that there are no wonderful, courageous dedicated folks out there.  It's that we, as a culture, don't seem to value them very much, if our media is an indication of what we hold to be important and cherished.. We are inundated with stories of the rich and famous (or infamous); we are asked to vote on who is to blame for the latest assault; our respect is demanded by people who do not appear to respect others; we are "entertained" by people who dress and behave as though they don't respect themselves.  It's enough to make a grown woman cry. Or become cynical and even, occasionally, afraid.

Fortunately, there are wonderful, courageous and dedicated folks out there. Occasionally, they even show up on TV, usually on Sunday morning, or after a catastrophe or disaster.  Everyday folks who rise to the occasion or who are dealing with personal challenges with grace and dignity.  Like the survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing.  Like the individuals and communities that band together to help a family in need or to clean up neighborhoods.  And the occasional celebrity who makes a genuine and dedicated commitment to a cause - I immediately think of Gary Sinise and his support of the Wounded Warrior Project.  

We all can use good examples.. Not just children.  We need them at all stages of our lives. Not to emulate but to inspire.  To inspire us to live "happy, loving, giving lives."  Not  perfect heroes or heroines or  larger than life figures.  But people we can identify with.  People who present possibilities within our reach if only we will reach a little higher. People who strive for something other than money or image, who care about others, who treat others with respect. The neighbor who watches our home when we are on vacation or the stranger who stops to help with a flat tire.  Perhaps someone ahead of us in the stream of life.  Or someone behind us from whom we can learn or just enjoy being with.

I used to ask workshop participants and coaching clients to select five individuals, living or dead, real or imaginary,  who would serve as a board of directors for their lives.   They would find the task challenging, if not impossible.  Today I would ask a different question, one that I am asking myself.  Who inspires you from the people you know and engage with?  With great relief and satisfaction, I can answer that question - easily.  My list includes a friend who can defuse any potential upset with humor and finesse.  Another who is facing a terminal illness with awesome dignity.  My sister who has the clearest and most responsible boundaries I have ever experienced.  My brother who has an insatiable thirst for learning, not mere knowledge, but genuine learning.  My husband who really does forgive and forget....and more.

But I have to admit, I also find Dame Judi Dench inspiring!

Who inspires you?



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