Recently, as I was recovering from open heart surgery in a local hospital, I had the pleasure of meeting some remarkably gifted caregivers. I tend to ask a lot of questions, and since I have never before gone through surgery, this habit of mine was on display, if not exacerbated.
On Friday this past week I was in Austin, Texas to participate in a board retreat for our newest client, Breakthrough Central Texas. I arrived early and decided to visit the LBJ Presidential Library on the campus of the University of Texas. It was a walk through history that I had lived in the 1950 and '60s. As I looked at the pictures of Lyndon Johnson as a child, it was revealing whose “laps he had sat on” that gave him inspiration and motivation to be the President for the poor.
I began thinking about the many people who had been my inspirations, even those whose laps I had sat on to feel their presence, their care and their hope for my future. When I returned home I was struck by this picture in my office that I walk by every day and take for granted. I had the good fortune to know the Reverend Billy Graham as a child. My grandfather had been his minister, and they forged a close friendship. This photograph was taken in 1956 in my grandparents' home Asheville, North Carolina. I was five years old. My leading memory from that moment was Reverend Graham's kindness and his total focus on me. For those moments we were together, it was as if I were the only person in the world. It is a lesson I have carried with me ever since. A test of the success of any encounter -- whether with a toddler or a centenarian -- is when I provide that person with my total focus.
Consider this: Your life is a combination of many factors, and one of these is the many individuals who have offered you a lap to sit on or a chair at the table, the chance soak in their presence and their approach to life. Who are they? If you could speak to them today, what guidance would you seek? What have you learned from their lives? What can you teach to others through the living of your life?
This weekend I was preparing for a presentation I will be making at the upcoming NC Center for Nonprofits annual symposium. While looking through old files, I came across this email I received in September 9, 2009. The subject was: “Alone in the Night.” It was about my childhood hero at my alma mater, Wake Forest University.
“In 1963, Daryll Hill endured scorn. A wide receiver for the University of Maryland football team, Hill was the first black player to break into the racially segregated Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Each week, Hill encountered hostile crowds with some opposing fans dressed in Ku Klux Klan robes or holding large dangling nooses.
During one game at Wake Forest, Hill faced a particularly vitriolic atmosphere. Brian Piccolo, a Wake player, crossed the field to Hill and led him directly in front of the frothing Wake student section. Piccolo wrapped his arm around Hill – and just stood there with him. Almost instantly, the crowd went silent.”