“Everyone can perform magic, everyone can reach his goals, if
he is able to think, if he is able to wait, if he is able to fast.”
One of my earliest memories is the death of President John F. Kennedy. I can’t say that I recall a lot, but I do remember being mesmerized by the soldiers standing by his coffin. I kept waiting for them to move. Shuffle their feet. Scratch behind an ear. Say something. Blink. But nothing. They stood as still as granite statues.
I have a vague memory of the horse drawn hearse, but that may be from photographs I saw long after the event. I have no recollection of John John and his now famous salute.
I don’t remember weeping. By anyone. Perhaps my mother cried, but no tears came from my eyes. At five-years-old, I was too young to understand what had happened, what a president was, and how our world had so drastically changed.
I do remember those soldiers, though. To this day, I can still see them standing at attention — stoic, uniformed rocks in a field of grief.
Hurry Up and Wait
For much of my life, I have been an impatient person. I am in a hurry to get places and upon arrival, all too often in a hurry to leave. My patience for home projects is extremely low. It’s too easy for me to call the sloppiest of repair jobs complete. I want arguments over quickly and generally want people to “get to the point.”
Like most character traits, there is a good and bad side to my rush to the finish line. On the positive side, if I am given a job to do, it will get done. I dig right in and don’t waste time looking for ways to get out of something. And unlike those home projects, I take pride in doing a good job when it comes to my career. My documentation is well written, and my software is sound.
On the bad side (and there are many bad sides), I expect people to keep up with me. On only a few occasions have I received worthwhile critique in a yearend review. Perhaps the best feedback ever shared with me read, “Andrew has little patience with those who do not meet his expectations.” As harsh as that might sound, it was spot on and I’ve carried those words with me ever since. Despite the fact that I am still a work in progress, I know that they have made a difference in my subsequent interactions. I make the conscious decision to slow down, listen, and not expect that something in my head is shared by anyone else.
A previous manager used to regularly say, “We are all broken people” and I am a poster child for that. However, I also believe that broken can be repaired. With that in mind, I am going to restate my previous statement to now read, “I have moments of impatience.” In other words, my character defect does not define who I am. It’s simply an obstacle that must be recognized and managed. While it may always be with me, how it shows itself doesn’t have to follow a prescribed model. I have a choice in how I respond and behave.
The same is true about all my character flaws/traits. I recognize that they exist, make every attempt to keep them in check, and when they inevitably show themselves, I own them and make amends for any harm they cause others or me.
The change of seasons always makes me extra thoughtful. Winter to spring. Summer to fall. It’s like a Tenth Step daily inventory on steroids. I think about where I’ve been and where I would like to be. I think about the good I bring to the world and the mistakes I continue to make. I think about change, serenity, humility, redemption, and balance.
And I still think about those soldiers and their unwavering stillness.