Today, June 2nd, is my Dad’s birthday. I contemplated saying was instead of is but it is the day of his birth even if he is no longer here. I decided last night that today I would spend some time with his journals. I wanted something spectacular and revealing to fall into my hands. I picked through the box, one yellow piece of legal paper looking just like the next. I pulled a few things out and didn’t like what I read…for one reason or another. Maybe someday I’ll share those. But I found something from August of 1990 that caught my eye. My dad was newly married for the third time and I was probably driving out to South Bend, IN to attend Notre Dame. Dave was in Lynbrook happily embarking on his junior year in high school. While we were busy with that, my dad was preparing to give a lecture. I’m not sure where he spoke or how many times he gave this speech. If I knew at the time it probably wouldn’t have made a difference to the freshman in college enjoying her newly found freedom. This lecture will give you a clear picture of why and how this man, my dad, inspired me. Here it is, not in it’s entirety because, well, just because I decided it was better that way and this is my blog.
I want to talk today about making a positive difference in our world; about extending ourselves, individually and collectively, outside the confines of our lives; about doing things, creating things, which have a life of their own; doing that which seems impossible; doing that which requires extraordinary initiative; to doing more about life than just showing up.
And, I’d like to begin by asking each of you to consider what you would dream of accomplishing if there were no barriers to personal accomplishment. Things like: being wealthy, losing weight, succeeding at a relationship, having intimate friendships, creating music and being charitable.
And I’d like you to think about these accomplishments in terms of attempting them even if you might fail, and to have effort be the objective rather than success; to accept the risk of failure and to commit to trying.
My dad takes a break in the lecture and describes a friend who angers him because he is “genius and is living his life wallowing away at a mediocre job and relationship.”
Many of our lives are the same way and that is why today, I am urging everyone to throw away their fears and to truly commit to accomplishing these things which are only dreams.
And what I am really urging is making a commitment to some larger purpose than ourselves, to the concept of initiating some personal action for the good of mankind that requires either the support/assistance of others or more than our lifetime to accomplish. Things like: eliminating the drug menace, finding a cure for AIDS, eliminating bigotry, cleaning up the environment or solving the homeless problem.
And then begin to dedicate a portion of your life to doing those things which may be impossible to change alone or in your lifetime.
There was an article in the Chronicle last week about a woman who, although 100 years old and blind, continues to lecture and write about saving the Everglades. She had in fact, dedicated her life to making a difference to this vast ecological complex.
The point of this woman’s life is that she has initiated a task about which she feels strongly and which she cannot possibly see accomplished within her lifetime – yet she is satisfied with taking the initiative and trusting that her writings will live after her and that someone else will pick up in her place.
The fully written notes end there and at the bottom he lists points to discuss; Thoreau, Dickinson and Wallace Stephens. My dad also lists as one of his own examples of personal commitment as uniting parents and children of divorce.
I wish with all of my heart that my dad was a phone call away and I could discuss this lecture with him. But, he isn’t. But I do have the power to take his words out of the box they are in and put them out into the world…the cyber world forever. Happy Birthday, Dad! Thank you for teaching me how to turn dreams into realities.