I cannot resist sharing this story of parenting, leadership and love. Relationships are long term. Our commitment to them can seem/feel/look invisible and it is wonderful when someone figures a way to make it visible. I can’t quite suss out the identity of the author and this is 8 months old (with millions of hits, it seems, so I’m late to the party. ) Anyway, apropos of nothing other than love, I give you…
I graduated High School this week. When my Dad said he had a present for me I thought I was getting some cheesy graduation card. But what I received was something truly priceless. Following the ceremony he handed me a bag with a copy of “Oh the Places You’ll Go,” by Doctor Seuss inside. At first I just smiled and said that it meant a lot and that I loved that book. But then he told me “No, open it up.” …On the first page I see a short paragraph written by none other than my kindergarten teacher. I start tearing up but I’m still confused. He tells me “Every year, for the past 13 years, since the day you started kindergarten I’ve gotten every teacher, coach, and principal to write a little something about you inside this book.”
He managed to keep this book a secret for 13 years, and apparently everyone else in my life knew about it! Yes the intended effect occured… I burst out in tears. Sitting there reading through this book there are encouraging and sweet words from every teacher I love and remember through my years in this small town. My early teachers mention my “Pigtails and giggles,” while my high school teachers mention my “Wit and sharp thinking..” But they all mention my humor and love for life. It is astounding to receive something this moving, touching, nostalgic, and thoughtful. I can’t express how much I love my Dad for this labor of love.
This morning from an #agchat tweet I spotted the word “affection.” I had to click. (Thanks @USFarmerMag!) And found this from March. Take a minute and enjoy. ( I read it while listening to Rene Fleming with YoYo Ma, Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile creating music with “Touch the Hand of Love.” Mama mia. Great combo. I’ll embed it below so you can do the same if you wish.)
For the 41st Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities which he delivered on Monday evening at the Kennedy Center, Mr. Berry, American intellectual and agrarian-minded elder, described how and why affection, yes, affection!, ought be considered the cornerstone of a new economy. Berry tells us that affection does not spring up fully formed; it is gotten to by way of imagination. It’s a train of thought worth quoting at length: “For humans to have a responsible relationship to the world,” says Berry, “they must imagine their places in it. To have a place, to live and belong in a place, to live from a place without destroying it, we must imagine it. By imagination we see it illuminated by its own unique character and by our love for it. By imagination we recognize with sympathy the fellow members, human and nonhuman, with whom we share our place. By that local experience we see the need to grant a sort of preemptive sympathy to all the fellow members, the neighbors, with whom we share the world. As imagination enables sympathy, sympathy enables affection. And it is in affection that we find the possibility of a neighborly, kind, and conserving economy.” Affection, then, takes us beyond statistics and generalizations to the immediate and the particular. It focuses our attention on the beloved things right in front of us. This field,this child, this community.
Berry observes that we live in a time where affection is discounted. It’s true: rare is the public discussion where affection – or beauty, or hope, or joy – is brought forward as a good and weighty reason to do anything. But Berry believes that affection is deeply motivating. “Affection involves us entirely,” he writes. If he is right, love itself could be what moves us, finally, to care for the Earth.
I loved this line: “affection does not spring up fully formed; it is gotten to by way of imagination.” As I prepare to facilitate an agricultural planning meeting, this is so useful for me to have in my mind.
Where are you imagining and nurturing affection in your work? Your life? Who is imagining it for you?
Via Bernie DeKoven on Google+ comes this fabulous video about how the South African hamburger chain, Wimpys, rolled out their new Braille restaurant menus. Bernie has the talent for finding things that make me smile, but this one goes deeper as well.
I was tempted to use U2’s amazing video of their song about Martin Luther King (1984) as for my “Monday Video” as today is the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday here in the US. But I like the actions of the Wimpy video. Actions that speak, as they say, louder than words. Watch first:
The opening bit is “small gestures are worth it.” In all my years facilitating and leading, the story of the ACTION almost always comes back to small gestures. It may be big or small ideas that get us going, but the small gestures get us there.
My early geographical community leadership work found legs when I learned things like mirroring to better hear and understand what others were saying – usually with a small gesture that started with eye contact, leaning in to listen, and paraphrasing to work towards understanding. When I first started facilitating online around 1997, the simple act of welcoming and reciprocating opened up the magic of text based asynchronous conversation. As I returned to more face to face meeting facilitation, again the gestures of showing that I was listening, of helping make the act of “being heard, seen and loved” central to group interaction proved powerful. More powerful than any method or tool.
I’m sure you have stories of the power of small gestures. I’d love to read them in a comment or through a link. 😉
Sometimes small gestures take the tiniest amounts of thought and energy. Sometimes they are deep, profound gifts (like placing sesame seeds on a bun to spell in Braille.) What I know, is they are worth it. Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day.