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We Were Here: A Not Average Tribute


“Time flies when you’re having fun”, is a statement we all know. But as I’ve recently discovered, it can also fly when you’re overwhelmed by complexity and injustice. I lived all of this through what I believe I will long consider to be one of the most powerful experiences of my adult life. I am now a graduate of the 42nd class of “Leadership St. Louis”. As I find myself across the finish line, I am reflecting on what this means to me.

Where my mind falls is, how do I sustain the fire this has created within me? How do I better serve the region I call home and honor the incredible people I was fortunate to come to know through this program? I think of the 41 cohorts to come before me and while I have seen many who have gone on to do admirable things in our region, I imagine some have found it easy to become distracted or “busy” due to life’s pull on their lives.

During many of our weekends I was inspired or frustrated to the point of tears. As I aim to hone my focus and hold my resolve, I think of the words of a professor who spoke to us while touring historically black neighborhoods created under segregation and thriving ones blighted to make way for “economic progress” (see Brentwood Promenade). He asked us rhetorically at the end of that day, "How long will this bother you?" I seek to make this question a mantra of mine and it manifests well through a scene in “Dead Poets Society”, where Robin Williams implores the students while looking at photos of classes of students that came before them, "Carpe Diem! Seize the day boys! Make your lives extraordinary!" His fundamental point is, a majority of those students who came before them are now "fertilizing daffodils". What will I do with the short time I am given on this planet? Will I stay bothered or find myself looking back wishing I had?

The other facet making this program life-changing is the cohort I now think of as my “focus family” (shout out to Tiffany Reed), who are incredible people already doing important things in our region. In our final day together, this impressive and wide-ranging group sat together for more than two hours, many in tears stating how this program has changed them and makes them feel supported. I was already moved by what this program had given me but to hear it repeatedly through them, is something I do not think I will ever forget. I cried not only for the beautiful things they said but also as I began to comprehend I would hear from these generous, curious and insightful individuals less often.

Despite the looming fear of busyness and frustration, when I look at the 42nd class, I know with confidence “we are the ones we've been waiting for”.

We must endeavor to remain humble and committed to the important work we seek to do. There will be doubt and setbacks during the journey but we will persevere by seeking help when we need it. I am beyond grateful to all of you for coming into my life and walking with me through this program.

Knowing that I cannot unsee what I have learned, a small piece of the burden is now upon me as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”. To the "not average" 42nd class, I stand with you prepared to go forth boldly.

With love,

Chris


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