Saturday, May 18, 2019

You Inspire Me

For the first six years of my life, I lived with my parents on my grandparents' farm. Both my parents worked, so my Grandma Olga, provided daycare for me. This amounted to me remaining within arm’s-length while she did her chores around the farm. She was a hard-working, simple, immigrant woman. She had married my grandfather when she was very young and had a total of 17 children (of which, 11 lived to adulthood). She never went to school and could neither read nor write. She signed her name with an X and never had a driver’s license. Her native language was German, which meant that when she was angry with me for misbehaving, which occurred frequently, she chastised me in German while wielding a hefty wooden spoon aimed at my behind. I did not need to know German to understand exactly what she meant. Grandma taught me to perform simple tasks, such as how to find eggs that the chickens had hidden. She showed me how to milk the cow, and then separate the cream from the milk by cranking the handle of the separator. I often observed her carding wool, and then using a treadle-operated spinning wheel in order to create yarn used to make sweaters and socks. Her chores were endless.  Grandma was on her feet from before dawn, when she could be found in the farm kitchen making breakfast, until it was dark and she was pulling the sheets off the clothesline so the beds could be made. I do not remember her ever being ill or going on a vacation.  Little did I realize then, or for many years after, how much my uneducated grandma inspired me.
To be inspiring we must be inspired.
Scott Barry Kaufman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review called "Why Inspiration matters". In it, he said, "Inspiration allows us to transcend our ordinary experiences and limitations. We often overlook the important role of inspiration. Inspiration transforms a person from experiencing a culture of apathy to experiencing a world of possibility."
What exactly does it mean for you to be inspired? The root meaning of "inspire" comes from the idea, "to breathe in".  Simply put, we need to breathe in (be inspired) before we breathe out (be inspiring).
What, or who, is the ultimate source of our inspiration.  You see, "Inspiration does not come from us, but through us." This is a radical statement in today's rational, humanistic world. It takes us out of the centre of creation and compels us to recognize that we do not “own” inspiration. It is a gift. A gift we must share in our own unique way, just as my Grandma did. We cannot keep it to ourselves. We must breathe out.

Over the past six years, I have been inspired by many students. They have given me a gift by sharing their stories. They have touched my heart. Because each of us our own way can inspire others, we can change the world.
We all need to engage this world -- a world that desperately needs to experience love, compassion, reconciliation, and hope.  So, I challenge you to ask yourself, "How can I inspire others?" For many of us, myself included, we need an inspirational launching pad into the adventures to come. We need to look for, listen for, and seek the breath of inspiration that will come to you.
To those of you who struggle sometimes with finding inspiration amidst the frustration, pain, self-doubt and rejection resulting from Parkinson’s disease, let your transparency, your achievements, your courage truly inspire others.  And as you do, you surely will change the world.

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