Friday, September 24, 2010

Involve Me and I learn

In a few hours, they'll be finishing up stacking the chairs atop one another, disassembling the small stage and podiums they used for the ceremony and all of us will go back to our lives. A very kind friend, not for anything he ever said in over a decade of knowing him, but because of everything he ever did, is calling it a career today. He's a kid, in dog years in comparison to me. Actually he's four years my junior--not that I have ever pointed that out to him.

I was a project he undertook when he arrived at my workplace to be 'the guy in charge.' His predecessor had decided the internal politics of arguing with people with more resources and more power over someone/something as insignificant as me just didn't add up and I was pretty much left for dead in a job and an office where my contribution to what my organization was all about was ignored when it wasn't denigrated.

My friend, my boss (or the other way round; both are accurate and true) was a collector of thrown-away people. He didn't change us but, rather, allowed us to change ourselves, recapture our interest and enthusiasm while justifying our actions and intentions to our harshest critics, ourselves. He enjoyed watching us become successful nearly as much as we did-and that was all the reward he asked for in the course of the reclamation.

He's one of the few people, blood excepted, for whom I would do anything. If he called this afternoon and told me we were needed in Hell by dinner, I'd ask no more than if formal attire were requested or was required. In a perfect world, his retirement ceremony will need to be in a huge amphitheater because his impact on people and their lives (and on the lives of those whom those people know) has been so profound that if they all were to show up, there would be no place for them.

As he closes this chapter in the book of his life and begins the next, I think he'd appreciate more than most a thought by another New England native, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who chose uniformed service, actually the same service, and was always bullish in his support of those who chose to train and to lead. "Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength of the nation." Fair winds and following seas, sir.
-bill kenny

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