Hugh and Clover are in a musical together and practice several times a week at the local high school. On my way through the parking lot to pick them up, I stopped to say hello to a dear friend whose children are also in the play.
In the brief few minutes I stood in the misty rain at the window of her van, we first chatted about an upcoming lecture she invited me to give this month to a group of women in the community. We then discussed insights on a TED talk we both happened to see about work and happiness, and she shared how she now seeks the positive at work, and sends random notes of appreciation to her coworkers. We talked about the rush of life and our desire to be as healthy as possible, as she blushed unnecessarily at the half-eaten pizza on the front seat, purchased for her kids on a busy day.
She then told me that the recent challenges in her life have left her crabby, irritable, and impatient. And since a trusted friend of hers told her that our true character is revealed in how we respond to a crisis, crabby, irritable, and impatient must be who she really is.
I stood there under the moist blistery sky, glancing across the pizza box, sports equipment, and pads of to-do-lists, into the face of this beautiful woman, lit with the desire be of profound good in this world, and something just flew out of my mouth.
“With all due respect to your interpretation of your friend’s wisdom,” I said, “I personally believe that who we really are is the sum total of all of our finest moments in life. You know, those moments, difficult or not, where we shine. Everything else is a counterfeit.“
And it’s true. I do think that we are most who we really are when we shine. I know because I’ve felt it, and I hope you have too. Those simple moments of genuine kindness when we want the best for others with no thought for ourselves. Just like my friend. That’s who she is, and I love her for it, and for our delightful, rainy day exchange.