In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.
Throughout my life, I have been inspired by many people who have made their mark on history. Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Victor Frankl, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Fred Rogers top my list. I have had the naïve habit of putting these individuals on pedestals, believing that somehow they were immune to human frailty.
One day I was driving to work, feeling inadequate in comparison to such great minds, when it occurred to me that Plato, brilliant as he was, was still only a man. He was only a man with ideas that many assume are great, simply because they are penned by “Plato.” As silly as it sounds, it gave me a great sense of relief to think of him as a normal person with whom I might have a conversation somewhere in time. That insight protected me from later disillusionment as I learned about the shortcomings of many whom I admire.
I think it’s interesting that we often ignore the blemishes of those with notoriety, but are willing to spotlight the faults of those we know personally. It is impossible for anyone to be perfect, but there is plenty of room in each of us to do great things; and being human and making mistakes does not cancel out the good. There are many who walk among us who are heroes and pioneers of peace.
I would like to share a story about two pioneers of peace who have touched my life for the good.
As some of you know, my husband suffers from cancer. It has been a two and a half year journey that we did not choose, but nevertheless have traveled. After his initial treatment, the cancer stayed at bay until it resurfaced in October 2012. Though we knew it was expected, the realization that it had actually happened was very difficult to accept. After receiving the dreaded news, we were invited to attend a “Tumor Board,” where several experts in the field joined together to develop a treatment plan. The decision was radiation, but before proceeding, he needed to have a bone scan, and a CT scan to make sure the cancer hadn’t spread beyond the point that radiation could be effective. The tests were scheduled for the next day at 11:00 am and we left the hospital. I took my husband to lunch at the “Blue Lemon.” It was his first time there. We both had raspberry chicken salads and processed the new information.
The next day was pivotal. I had a full schedule and didn’t feel comfortable taking another day off, so I went to work. I saw my 8:00 appointment and my 9:00 appointment, and at 10:00, I saw a couple. At 11:00 the wife of that couple left, and I saw the husband for an individual session. Before leaving, she told her husband she was going to pick up lunch and then come back to pick him up. During the hour between 11:00 and 12:00, I knew the tests were being performed and my heart was heavy. Despite the weight of the hour, the session was good and I was glad to be of service. At noon the session was over. We walked together out into the waiting room where his wife was standing, holding a take-out bag from the “Blue Lemon.” With a smile on her face she said, “I brought you lunch. It’s a raspberry chicken salad and butternut squash soup.” She had no idea the significance that held. Touched, I accepted the lunch and thanked her, barely able to keep my composure.
The three of us walked back into my office and the husband, looking at my painting, said, “You really like Asia don’t you?” I said, “Yes I do.” Then he said, “You might be interested in what I’m going to do next weekend.” I said, “Really, what are you going to do?” He said, “I’m running a marathon for the Huntsman Cancer Institute. We are going to be wearing Tibetan prayer flags, and after the race, the flags are going to be taken to Nepal, where they will be placed in the ground at the base of Mt. Everest.” I was stunned, but not as stunned as when he said, “Guess what the name of the marathon is? It’s called, ‘Radiating Hope’, get it? Radiating Hope…radiation?” I felt the floor leave my feet and I said, “Thank you for doing that. There are people very close to me who have cancer.” I thanked them again for lunch and we said good-bye.
That day, I had two “pioneers of peace” grace my life. They had no idea what I was experiencing, and that’s the miracle of it. Their kindness carried me on that length of my journey, and I will be forever grateful. Their contribution was as great as anything Plato ever said, and that’s my point. There is greatness in us all, and we can do significant things. Pioneers of Peace choose peace through kindness, service, and building up; making a conscious choice not to tear down. Remember, small acts of kindness are more powerful than the time it takes to perform them. As one who is the recipient of such kindness, I can say my heart is full to capacity thanks to those who “walked and not just talked.”