Am I alone in perceiving that the passing of stellar political journalist Tim Russert has gotten us all thinking about where we fit in the world and our life's purpose this week? The idea that Mr. Russert passed way too early at age 58, reminds me of the fact that I am driven by the idea that I must make my mark and contribute to the betterment of the world before I leave this place. The problem is that at age 38, I've yet to discover what that is. That's okay, though. Tim Russert thought that he would stay in Buffalo and become a lawyer, and look how his life turned out. The truth is, that none of us knows what tomorrow brings. I hold to the words of a hymn that I grew up singing in church, which gives me confidence and understanding that my job is to ride the wave and see where it will take me, taking care not to steer--that's ever so hard, isn't it?:
"Green pastures are before me, which yet I have not seen; Bright skies will soon be o'er me, where darkest clouds have been.
My hope I cannot measure, my path in life is free; my Father has my treasure, and He will walk with me."
There is so much comfort in that hymn, which starts with the lyric "In Heavenly Love abiding..."
The truth is that we all have an opportunity to make our mark in this world. We may not end up in the public eye like Paris Hilton or Britney Spears, but who really wants that kind of notoriety anyway? We may never have the power and cache of a Hillary Clinton or a Barack Obama, and that's okay. We do have power in other ways. From the server who pours your coffee at the local diner, or the sweet Korean girl who gives you sushi "on the house" or to the piano bar performer who sings your favorite song helping you to end a stressful week with a laugh and a tear, these are the contributions that really matter. These are the things that remind us that we are all onstage in this gig together, and sometimes we're front and center stage and other times we're doing backup. This is hard to remember on a day to day basis, but tributes like we saw today on "Meet the Press" remind us that it is possible, and you have to work every single day to be "part of the group."
It's very strange that today is Father's Day, normally a day of celebration, and it feels so somber. The funny part (not in the "ha-ha!" sense) is that I didn't even know Tim Russert, but I felt like I did when I'd watch him on "The Today Show," and, occasionally, on "Meet the Press." He always had a way of making someone like me (not usually intrigued by politics and current events) interested and engaged in what was happening in the world of Washington. Never having thought about whether or not his on-air personality was the same as it was off, the last couple of days have taught me that undoubtedly, what you saw, was what you got. As a matter of fact, Tom Brokaw referenced that Russert was truly an "authentic" person and that carried over into everything he did.
I have been touched by the sense of loss in the lives of people in my life who worked directly with Tim Russert--from my boss whose son spent considerable time with his son Luke, to an ex-boyfriend, who interned with him in the early 90s. This morning was characterized by raw emotions--upfront and ready to push me into a weeping fit--due partly to feeling the loss communally of a legend, but mostly in response to contemplation of what I am doing in my life that will allow me to touch as many lives as he did.
The truth is that none of us knows what impact we have on each other's lives. Once, when I was in college, I had the opportunity to go back and tell my eight-grade choir teacher that she made a difference in my life--helping to raise my self-esteem and teaching me things that were the basis for my work ethic as a performer. The truth is, if possible, we must go to those who have made an impact on our lives and tell them so. We have so much power to change the planet just by words. There will always be the neurotic, frenetic energy that we give off in the office, with family, or wherever, that will try to conspire against us to keep others from being the best they can be. That's all crap and doesn’t matter. It’s all the good things we do that really count-- From consolations about relationship breakups to accolades for an overlooked co-worker who needs to hear "I think you are doing a fabulous job and you show growth in your position," these are the things that make an impact and contribute to one's reputation.
Why is Tim Russert's passing so emotional for so many people? For those who knew him, I’ve heard that he was natural "cheerleader." For most of us, he gave hope that there is still good in the world. After all, he emanated integrity and honor. In a world where nothing or no one seems to stands for anything, it would seem that his colleagues and the rest of America, knew exactly what he stood for--Strong family values, ethics, accuracy in journalism, and respect for all people. Those are descriptions that very few of us can claim in this day and age. So,today, instead of mourning our loss, let’s celebrate what we’ve gained—the acquisition of ideas and sentiments that Mr. Russert brought to all of us that will continue on and spark marvelous thought in those who come after him.