With awe and respect

Perhaps the truest sign of reaching adulthood is realizing how complete not only our life is, but marveling at what friends from grade school and high school are accomplishing. In the last few months, catching up with friends has meant seeing the impact of my broader sphere in the world at large. And can we talk about change coming from one individual? I’m beginning to see how large those ripples can spread.

Some friends are raising families, kids who are interesting, curious about the world and respectful to those around them. A few years ago, I didn’t understand what a huge accomplishment that is. As far as I’m concerned, if you are raising good people, you deserve every hat tip I can give you.

Some lead nonprofits, waking up every day to make good on a pledge to change the world. That’s a lovely sentiment, but the day-to-day grind of that pledge requires a huge amount of commitment and heart. The same could be said of the entrepreneurs, and the people leading teams charged with business-changing initiatives. In fact, I am hard-pressed to think of a friend who isn’t charging full speed ahead on one mission or another.

And then we see the truly world-changing individuals who have found ways to accomplish tasks that seem impossible. A high school acquaintance recently married his true love, who grew up a world away from him in almost every way. He runs a business of his own creation that gives back to the community where his products are made in multiple ways. His now wife grew up carrying water back to her village and became a charity-running supermodel. You cannot make this stuff up! I bought her children’s book for my kids, and I can feel her kindness through the pages even though we’ve never met. And this is only one example.

When the news is bleak and life is overwhelming, reflecting on what only the people I know are accomplishing always brings goals back into focus and gives me the energy to keep going. We know people whose life mission is teaching kids to read, broadening children’s scope so they know they all have the potential to become great; sharing language and culture; helping everyone find their place in the world; bringing music to communities that don’t have the funding for arts; bringing food to food deserts; and making neighborhoods safer for everyone. One adventurer just got published in National Geographic, writing about Mongolia while teaching in Korea.

That’s the tip of the iceberg, people. These stories don’t come from the newspaper or from unreliable Internet sites. These are people I know or have crossed paths with in former lives. Some of these people win prizes and awards, and are recognized for their greatness. And some operate quietly, making small changes that add up to big impact. I take great comfort in knowing that if this circle brings so much good to the world, I can’t even calculate how many other individuals are accomplishing similar things beyond my awareness.

So think about who you know and what they’re doing. If you believe in their mission, take a minute to thank them for their work. If you can support them with your presence or a small donation, do it and do it with intention. Tell them that they inspired your participation, because that recognition will feed their drive. And look at your impact in the world. Redouble you efforts to hold to your principles when the kids are wearing you down. Stay the course on your volunteering or at work, and take the time to see how far you’ve come and to acknowledge the impact you’ve had. Celebrate.

Dave and I have realized lately that the chapters get longer as we get older. Waiting to complete all of your tasks before taking a break no longer works. So this form of celebration is one of my new goals – to celebrate others, and to acknowledge achievements. I can see how life can speed up so much that we forget those quiet moments of reflection. As our life speeds up with all of these little people, we’re determined to fight the urge to rely on auto pilot. And we celebrate their accomplishments, and those of the people who inspire us.