“For there is a price ticket on everything that puts a whizz into life, and adventure follows the rule. It’s distressing, but there you are.” (Leslie Charteris)
One adventure of my most recent business trip, was the opportunity to address a crowd of several thousand people. As I manage the philanthropic efforts of my company, my topic was service to others and making the world a better place. Here’s an edited excerpt:
“On the plains of Texas and Oklahoma, trees were sometimes rare and precious things and there was a tradition that recognized the responsibility of one generation for the next. Homesteaders, once their house was built, the well dug and the first crops harvested, planted their ‘grandchildren grove.’ Farmers read scores of seed catalogs to select a particular type of pecan tree—hardy and strong, able to withstand deep winters and torrid summers—and sent off carefully hoarded money.
In due time, a tree hardly larger than a switch arrived. The farmers placed the roots in water, dug a hole, planted the trees, and watered them carrying bucketful after bucketful from their wells. The pecan trees weren’t for their benefit. Pecan trees grow very slowly, the farmers would be dead and gone long before the groves they planted provided substantial shade or nuts. Some felt work that went unrewarded for generations was a waste, but farmers who planted pecan trees weren’t planting the trees for themselves. They were creating a legacy for others.
In the 1870s, my great-great grandfather left his native country of Denmark for Utah and established a homestead. He built a dwelling on the property, worked the land for a number of years and eventually it became his. He built this house—lived in a tiny upstairs accessed by a ladder on the outside of the structure while his sheep lived in the room below him! His effort sustained his life and became a legacy. Who can predict the value of one person’s life well-lived, the service they provide or the impact of a legacy? In my experience, you can’t, because it’s limitless.
I was reminded of that fact 140 years after he established his legacy, because his legacy literally saved me when I unexpectedly became single—without a home, money or assets—the sole parent and support of my four children. What began as a little homestead and then became his legacy, sustained me and my children for a time and helped us get our start in building and creating a new life.
What is your legacy? How are you demonstrating your commitment to making a difference in the world, making the world a better place? Your legacy is the service you provide, the mark you make on the world while you’re here and the one you will leave behind when you are gone. Although our days are numbered, may our good works never be!”
After the speech ended, I went about my other business duties at my company’s event. But as usually happens after a speech, I met people who recognized me as the woman who spoke on stage, they’d introduce themselves and we’d have a great discussion about the impact of service, making the world better or they’d share how someone had touched their life by serving them. What I didn’t expect was any discussion about anything else. But as I’ve said before, in life, you get unexpected adventures.
A man approached, introduced himself, told me how much he’d enjoyed my remarks and what an amazing woman I was. He was quite effusive in his praise, it made me start to think, “Wow, my speech must have been even better than I thought!” And then the man moved on to the topic of being a single parent, surviving hard things, told me we had a lot in common, what a strong woman I must be, how much he admired me and how nice it was to meet me. (I know, I know, I’ve always been slow to catch on to these types of things, haven’t I? And apparently two times through the singles scene, in the 1980s and again in 2009-2010, didn’t make my instincts any sharper!)
It suddenly dawned on me that the man was single and apparently thought I still was! He continued to talk (and compliment me) and I began to notice he was still holding my hand from our initial handshake. And then his talk turned to the idea of destiny, including that it was more than a coincidence that we were involved at the same company, at the same event, and that it was fate that we meet.
I withdrew my hand as politely as I could, thanked him for his kind words, told him it had been a pleasure to meet him and added, “And what a blessing it is to get through those hard times! It’s so nice to be out of mine, to have life move on and to have it all come together again in great happiness.” (Or something like that. I was kind of flustered about the man’s mistaken impression and was almost panicked that I’d apparently given an auditorium of people the wrong impression about my marital status—despite the fact I’m very open about my marital status and I stood there wearing my wedding ring during my speech AND while meeting the single man!)
I went back to my work duties, laughed at that “unexpected” adventure and quickly forgot it. Until the next time the man sought me out. And the next time. And when his next conversation began with, “Can you believe we keep running into each other like this? It must be more than destiny!” (all the while, he’s clutching my hand in his) I began to think it was more than destiny too. I thought it was like many other travel experiences I’ve had—trips to Disneyland, cruises, whatever—where I’ve noticed the same person/family or run into the same person/family over and over again for a STRANGE reason (usually because they stand out because they’re “odd”!) I emphasized, again, that I was married and didn’t run into my new friend again after that. Adventure over.
Until I got home, returned to work, checked my email and had a new Facebook friend request! From you-know-who!
“Boldness be my friend.” (William Shakespeare)