“Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may never forgive you. But encourage me, and I will never forget you.” – William Arthur
Though we sometimes feel like a pinball arbitrarily bouncing around inside the pinball machine of life, there is often a hidden order to the chaos. Our lives are influenced by so many people: people that love us and want the best for us, as well as people who just seem to have it out for us and would love to see us fail. Luckily, my life has been blessed with more of the former and less of the latter. My failures have been all my own while my successes have been the hard work and effort of so many. My life is pretty ordinary – the people in it are anything but. My life has been better because these people have lived:
Everyone needs a spiritual and moral compass. For some people this comes in the form of a religious figure or a family member. For me it was my Mom’s Dad, my Papa. Though he left this world 20 years ago, he is alive and well in my mind and in my spirit. I’m not always conscious of his influence but, like a building’s cornerstone, is the base of all the rest.
My high school history professor, Mr. Duncan, didn’t laugh at me when I told him that I was going to run for Senate some day and fix all of the problems in the world. Instead, he started calling me Senator Clapp and told me that he respected my idealism and told me, “never let anyone take it away from you.”
I left college after my first year and was just about as lost as I could be. For about 18 months I waited tables and played Nintendo. One day, a friend shows up at my door and says he wants to go for a ride. It was a long ride and we finally end up at our local community college. My friend, Doug, lays down a credit card and signs me up for classes. You know what he says to me? He says, “You’re too smart to not be in school.” Eventually, I graduate from the University of Georgia and even make it to graduate school. Doug’s not a friend, he’s my brother.
I was in love once and she was pretty special. I’ve never in my life known anyone that believed in me so fully or trusted me so unquestionably. She would have followed me to Zimbabwe and back if I had asked her. I’m a better person because of the time we spent together. As I said before, my failures belong solely to me. This one is a case study in that point. To be loved so unconditionally gives you an incredible sense of inner peace. All was right with the world when we were together.
When I turned in my resignation from my first real job, rather than my boss getting upset and showing me the door, he asked me if I’d go have a beer with him on my last day. He told me he thought that I was talented and said we should stay in touch. He was actually not my boss, he was my boss’s boss, the VP of Marketing. It meant alot to me and showed me that though there are some pretty angry people in business there are also some very authentic, professional people, too. Russ is one of those guys.
Bob, a guy in my French class, asked me if I had ever read the book, Personality Types by Carl Jung. He had that book and a book called, Please Understand Me sitting on the corner of his desk. I had never heard of either and he said I could borrow them. I don’t even remember Bob’s last name but he let me borrow those two books and my life hasn’t been the same since. I not only finally understood why I thought the way I did, but I understood that I was fine just the way I was.
If I could go back in history and spend some time with someone, Joseph Campbell would be high on my list. I doubt any single individual has had a more profound impact on my understanding of the world, of the universe. Campbell continues to be my mentor and my teacher. Not just me, but many people’s lives have been better because he lived.
Sometimes “through better or worse” applies to friendship, too. It’s easy to remain friends through the “better” times. It’s only when things get “worse” do you find out who your real friends are. Just being around Chris is enough to lift anyone’s spirits. My life is happier and my heart lighter because of him.
Some people are not blessed enough to have even one mother. I’m lucky enough to have two. Since the 8th grade Kathy has looked after me like one of her own. Her life is an inspiration when I need inspiration and her advise is always cherished when I need advice. I rarely deserve the love I have in my life and this is no exception.
It’s not very often that you get to meet your heroes, much less befriend them. When I met Rupert in 1997 it was truly amazing. Every so often you know when you’re in the presence of genius. It’s inspirational and life changing to see someone so driven by the simple passion of what they believe. I cherish the honorable mentions in his books to no end. It’s amazing how powerful an idea can be.
Have you ever met anyone that raises the bar so high that you can only marvel at the heights of their virtue and inner strength. Jennifer has endured more than any one person should be asked to. Like Job in the Old Testament, everything was taken away from her. Like Job in the Old Testament, her faith remained unshaken. Rather than anger, she’s full of love. Rather than bitterness, she’s full of forgiveness. The rest of us can only aspire to live such a life. My life is better because she is a part of it.
The wisdom of a child can be so sublime and profound that it’s hard to tell who is teaching who. After birthday parties, summer vacations, kindergarten graduations, trampoline jumping, and lots of bedtime stories, I’ve learned more from Mackenzi that I did in college. She is wise beyond her years and yet she loves me just the way I am.
Often those that influence our lives the most we never even have the chance to meet. I would probably not even be here today if it weren’t for my sister, Kimberly. She died only minutes after being born. We never had a chance to meet. When life seems overwhelming, I remember that she died so that I could live. Who am I not to live my life to the fullest in her honor?
It’s the people in our lives that make life worth living. Some people we know well enough to complete their sentences and some we’ve never even met. Yet they all act to help us and are ready to teach us and give us the encouragement we need to make it through life’s ups and downs.
There’s a wonderful paper by Schopenhauer, called An Apparent Intention of the Fate of the Individual, in which he points out that when you are at a certain age and look back over your life, it seems to be almost as orderly as a composed novel. And just as in Dickens’ novels, little accidental meetings and so forth turn out to be main features in the plot, so in your life. And what seem to have been mistakes at the time, turn out to be directive crises. And then Schopenhauer asks: “Who wrote this novel?”