One of the best gifts you can receive is to reconnect with a friend after some time has passed. The day after my 39th birthday I received such a gift.
Jane Harris and I go back a little more than a year now. She was one of the phenomenal people I met as I continued networking in my previous career. There was always a couple of people you feel destined to meet, yet don't realize it until they have already had such a great impact in your life. Often we discover the impact after those folks are gone; either by tragedy or by the far more common separation of time and distance. Jane has definitely been one of those people in my life, fortunately she hasn't had to be gone for me to see it.
She is also where the dinosaur question came form.
It's always interesting to me to think about the little shatterpoint moments we all have in the lives of others. Those conversations where we can either make or break someone's future course of action with just a word. For most of us it is frightening to realize that our lives hinged to strongly on the words or actions of another person. Nonetheless the reality of it is plain; we can inspire or crush with but a word.
When I first decided to undertake this project, right after quitting my previous job, Jane and I met for a cup of coffee. I told her about the project, about this idea in my head and what I was endeavoring to do. Her response couldn't have been more enthusiastic. Jane was genuinely excited for me, encouraging me to go for it with everything I have. Her only suggestion was simple; that I should ask everyone one question that was the same for consistency. You know this as the dinosaur question.
The incredible thing about that coffee is that Jane's encouragement helped drive me forward at a time when I was terrified and wondering what I was thinking. Her enthusiasm became a cornerstone of this project, just like the dinosaur question.
When I thank Jane for her support, tell her the impact it had at such a critical state, she smiles and looks a bit amazed. To be honest, the magic of her support would probably be lost if she fully understood it or knew it had happened on her own.
I have looked at the eyes of over a hundred people as they told me their stories, searching for the nature of their heart, the magic of their being reflected therein. There is a magic about Jane's heart that I have always admired. I've seen the eyes of people who fear or regret the world. Those aren't Jane's eyes, because they are not her heart. No in Jane's eyes I see the rarest of creatures; true hope. Jane believes a difference can be made, she has since I have known her. It's a type of pure faith that I marvel at even after dozens of cups of coffee. It never gets old.
Jane is the type of person who can pass that faith to you; the type of person who can make someone believe that meeting 100 people in 100 days just might make a change in the world.
We laugh and catch up, talking about the new things in our lives; new directions and dreams, progress made on older ones. I am always at a level of ease with Jane, she has that energy. It is kinetic, you feel motivated, but at the same time you find yourself comfortably sinking into your chair, holding onto your coffee. These moments are precious. Jane and I don't see each other as often as we used to and there is always the possibility that we won't again. Though the specter of that thought is always present, with her it is muted, silent in the presence of friends and coffee.
Talking with Jane has an ease about it, less like a dance and more like the breeze on a summer's evening. It moves and glides almost effortlessly. Our conversation needs no guidance, no road signs or cautions. We talk about life and love. We talk about politics and faith. We talk about the past and the future though we are always in the present.
My heart takes a great joy in our conversation. Talking with Jane is rejuvenating, as good as a full night's sleep or a day in the sun.
Time with my friend passes to quickly. Soon we are both up and walking out to the days that await us. Days full of emails, phone calls, writing and connecting await each of us, the only true difference being the nature and end result of these activities. We embrace, plan for the next coffee and then drive away, cars in opposite directions.
Of all the things that I have learned in life, in this project and from the lips of others I have no idea where this life ends; what that end destination looks like. Honestly I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it. I prefer to think about the roads we all take in our lives, the places we come to and the journeys of love we embark upon. For years I was negative, angry at the world and my own life. I spread that emotion to others without regard. During that time I would talk to Jane and wish that I could have that hope, to get to that destination in life she had reached, positive that I would know when I got there because she would be there, among others.
Over that cup of coffee one simple fact stood above others; I saw her because I had, in fact, gotten there to that place of hope.
Why: It seems to be the underestimated one, lower to the ground, slow, but slow and steady wins the race.