The Other End of Sunset

Monday, November 21, 2005

Where does it all connect, anyway?

OK, this is not, so far, a funny posting. Sorry, in advance, Fearless Reader.

I was at an airport this weekend. (I know, Shocking! But true.)

I had a remarkable moment of self-learning. An epiphany, if you will.

I was standing in line at Southwest (I was in the B line. I didn't get an aisle. Whatever.)

In the line next to me was this normal looking older couple. Perhaps in their sixties? Dunno. He was on his cell phone, talking apparently to his son. They were chatting about miscellaneous stuff. At the end of the call, he said "ok, your mom wants to talk to you for a second. I love you, son, don't ever forget that. OK? Really." Then he handed the phone to his wife, who chatted for a few minutes. He didn't say it in that smarmy fake way that people often say that sort of thing, at least where I come from, but in a really authentic sounding way. You could tell that the guy was just brimming with love for his kids.

It was awesome to hear. I don't have kids, and probably never will, but this guy sounds like what I'd like to be like if I did.

Then I turned my head, to see a father, perhaps in his 30s or so, with a little girl, maybe 5 or 6. She was beautiful. Of course, it's hard not to be beautiful at that age. She was walking just in front of her dad. She tripped, I think, and almost fell down. Instantly, her dad snapped "what, can't you even walk right? You don't do anything right, do you!". And she didn't even argue. She just put her head down and kept walking. It seemed to me that she was used to it. And maybe didn't even question it.

How sad is that. Not even that a man felt it was ok to say that to a little girl, but even more that she seemed to believe it. What does it say about her ability to succeed in the future? Maybe nothing? Maybe a lot.

I actually got mad -- not a common emotion for me. I had a brief mental flirtation with violence. And then I moved on.

Nobody around me seemed bothered, or even all that disturbed by it.

Where does it all connect, anyway?

What is our responsibility to the next generation? Is it only to our kids? Or to those of other folks? What about teaching? And developing? Does it matter? Am I only accountable for my family (which leaves people like me totally off the grid, no responsibility at all... and perhaps no impact either).

I've had great fortune in my life to have terrific role models. Professionally, I've learned from people like Eric Schmidt, Dawn Lepore, Mike Moritz, Steve Dresner and Mitchell Wade. Personally, I've learned from partners, priests, and pets.

And I have learned much from recovering drug addicts about what really matters.

I've learned that everybody has a story, and probably a secret, and it's likely not that different from yours or mine. I've learned that everyone has something beautiful about them, and that I'm not always good at looking for it hard enough. I've learned that sometimes it's better to write the truth into a letter, and then not send it. But that I should write it anyway. I've learned that I have been very lucky in my life, and that I think I owe the world something in thanks.

Who was the most influential on me? The business folks, the aunt with the vase, the addicts, the priests, who?

I don't know. Maybe all of them.

Sometimes you got do, what you gotta do
And hope that the people you love, will catch up with you.
Yea Drag Queens in Limousines
Nuns in blue jeans
Dreamers with big dreams
Poets and AWOL marines
Actors and Bar Flies
Writers with Dark Eyes
Drunks that Philosophize
These are my friends

--Mary Gauthier

And I continue to wonder: Where does it all connect. How can we leave the world better off, if we disengage?

Eventually, all things merge into one,
and a river runs through it.
Under the rocks are the words,
and some of the words are theirs.

--Norman Maclean

I worry for the future, when that little girl grows up. And that all of us will be a little poorer, and a little grimmer, for not having engaged. For not having recognized that it all connects.

Peace, take care, take care of someone else.