Lessons from a convention speaker...

lessons for clara

Dearest Clara, I’ve seen a fair amount of speakers at large conventions.  Some are better than others, but often times I struggle to really relate to the speaker since the topic has been boiled down to make sure it applies to everybody, which can mean that it’s hard to find specific guidance for anybody.  Then again, most of these types of speeches are often times not about specific guidance anyway . . .

Just this week I was at an event in Philadelphia that started with a speaker and while he spoke at a high level for the most part, there were portions of his speech that stuck with me.  So much so that I took notes right there in my programs so that I could pass these along to you:

  • Many things are complicated but acknowledging others is not:  Life moves quickly, and it seems like we can be wrapped up in so many things.  Life is complicated, the speaker certainly admits to that.  But he gave an excellent reminder that no matter how complicated we think our own lives might be, taking a little bit of extra effort to acknowledge others, to pause and notice something, to say thank you, to reach out and offer a little extra help, to congratulate someone on a job well done . . . those things are not complicated.  Make sure you do them.
  • Never forget a friend, and don’t let a friend forget you: Relationships are a two way interaction.  And it’s easy for us to keep score about who’s doing what.  But friendships are cultivated through our efforts and time---it evens out in the end.  Be present in the lives of those you’ve chosen to be friends with.  And when friends forget us, as they sometimes will, ask yourself if there is anything you can do go gently remind them---the years of friendship will be worth it.
  • You can’t ask people to serve their country without their country supporting them back: This touched on the issue of how we treat our veterans and members of the armed services.  Whether you might individually agree with a conflict or not, be sure to separate that out from the way that you think about the people who have voluntarily put their lives on the line so that others don’t have to.  There are many ways to thank those who make that choice for us---don’t let those sacrifices be forgotten.
  • You don’t owe the homeless a dollar, but you do owe them human decency: If someone is on the street asking for money, I tend to believe it is because they do not have another way to make a living.  Some people don’t agree with that.  But regardless of how you feel about giving money, that doesn’t mean that the person asking isn’t a person.  Just because someone has less than you---whether it’s less money or material goods or family or anything---doesn’t mean that you get to see right past them.
  • Ask your parents questions.  Once they’re gone, "the library is closed": The speaker used the example of parents, but this can apply to grandparents, or friends or relatives . . . The point is, take the time to get to know people, especially those that are close to you.  They are part of your history, and we tend to take for granted that we know what we need to know.  He reminded us to ask the little stuff---how your parents met, where they honeymooned, what their own parents were like, what they loved to eat growing up . . . little things that paint the picture of a whole person.  Once they pass, that opportunity to know their own version of themselves passes too.  Take the time to ask those questions while you still have it---they will be so happy that you acknowledged them enough to want to know.

And you can always ask me anything---I would love to talk to you about it.

All my love,


PS – In case you’re wondering, the speaker was a gentleman named Mark Scharenbroich.