Saturday, January 15, 2011


My sister in her job receives queries from authors who are writing articles for magazines or books, and if one looks particularly applicable, she passes it on to me. This week, an author is looking for women to write about a woman who had an impact on their lives. As I tried to put my specific story in writing about my late best friend, I thought of all the women and men who have impacted my life. People who think of themselves "self-made" might be wise to consider the probability, no, the certainty, that that particular feat is impossible. We are obligated to acknowledge the help of known and unknown people who have made it possible to live our present lives and be the person each one of us has become.

Even millionaires and billionaires could not have been financially successful in business were it not for the person who had enough confidence to give them their first job, the banks willing to loan them money for an idea, the employees willing to work for many times low wages, the customers who bought their products, the companies who advertised for them and developed slogans and images, the lawyers who dealt with copyrights and trademarks, etc. Yes, maybe they worked long and hard to achieve their success, but that wasn't enough without help. (And if you earned your beginning wealth through inheritance, I don't need to say anything more about having help, now do I?) To say anything different would be arrogance.

From the very first teacher who taught you to read to the mentors who guided you through your career - everywhere in your past, you find those to whom you owe gratitude. Parents, siblings, and other relatives who taught you ethics and patience and faith and commitment - friends who encouraged and supported you and helped you along the way - all these were ingredients to the final product of you.

One of the author's suggestions was to write about someone who has "changed" your life. That can be hard to quantify, sometimes, but I prefer to use the word "enriched." Enrich has gotten a bad rap in recent years because of enriched bread - yes, the old Wonder Bread was one of the originals - taking the whole grain out and then putting back vitamins and calling it "enriched" which does the word no justice. The definition of enrich is to "improve or enhance the quality or value of...add to the cultural, intellectual, or spiritual wealth of..." Ah, now that is a different story!

There is not enough paper or web space to talk about all those who have enriched my life. Starting with my wonderful family - my parents, sister, husband, children, grandparents, uncles and aunts and cousins and nieces and now grandchildren - then moving on to teachers who taught me to read and write, teachers who taught me to think in an expansive and creative way, teachers who introduced me to the beauty of French, teachers (not necessarily at school) who taught me skills such as sewing and quilting and cross-stitch, authors who got me interested in Abraham Lincoln, my spiritual guides, the woman who taught me how to play piano, the man who taught me how to play the organ, the woman who hired me for a transcription position basically on faith, the wonderful people who married my children - these are all people who enriched my life. Even people in short-lived situations have to be added to the list - such as the kind young man who brought back my PC computer when it crashed a few years ago, the woman at church who let me borrow her Celtic harp which resulted in my falling in love with the instrument, the folks with the Instant Text software who allowed me to participate in the beta program and taught me so much - they too enriched my life.

I have to add to the list people whom I have never met: The anonymous donor who paid my fee for a church youth group trip to NYC and DC when I was a teenager, the doctor who took care of my pregnant mom and then delivered me surgically 56 years ago, the physicians who invented the vaccines that kept me healthy and well all my life, the inventors who made strides with photography that allow me to watch home movies of my dad holding me decades ago, the scientists who harnessed electricity and invented computers and programmed software to allow me to video conference with my son so I can see my little grandbaby Joshua - all these strangers have enriched my life by their contributions in their chosen fields.

No, no one can be arrogant enough to claim he/she is self-made. You can be the most talented musician in the world, but someone nurtured you in music. You can be the greatest thinker that ever lived, but those before you wrote and published books and essays that fired up your mind. You may have talent, God-given abilities, knowledge, strength, courage, and a whole slew of attributes that have guided you through life - but it hasn't happened on your own and it hasn't happened in a vacuum. It has been interaction all the way.

Of course, with me as with everyone, it is a work in progress. People are continually enriching my life. There are those who have enriched my existence for years and are still involved, and there are those who will remain strangers, but they are adding to my life all the same, from the man who held the door for me, to the cashier who flashed a genuine friendly smile, to the mighty fine folks who let me publish my little musings free on this blog site - there's a lot of enriching going on. As well, I hope that I have been and continue to be an enricher as well as enrichee. I can't ask for more than to be in awe that so many have positively affected my life, while at the same time trying to remember that I too can be part of the process that makes the world a better place. It ain't Wonder Bread - but it is certainly Wonder.

1 comment:

Scott 'Q' Marcus said...

A friend of mine, Kelly Ratzlaff, turned me on to your post. Beautifully said and a wonderful sentiment to boot.

Thank you.