Thursday Dec 13 2007
By Rick Fullerton | Bio
I’m in love (or at least infatuated) with an amazing young woman. She is in her 20s, about the same age as my youngest daughter. I just met her last Friday, and we are having lunch this week. Let me explain how this unfolded and why it is so exciting!
For several years, I have been an adjunct professor in the faculty of management at a local university, where I teach graduate courses in human resources and management skills. This work is very rewarding, yet I also seek involvement with people involved in practical field work, where direct action produces tangible results.
One such opening occurred on Friday when my wife, Phyllis, and I attended a thesis presentation by Aliza Weller. While this was the much anticipated culmination of her course work and field research, for us it was a totally spur of the moment decision. In fact, we had not met Aliza or known of her work until seeing her an hour earlier during an open seminar. And yet both Phyllis and I knew this was what we wanted to do.
What touched me about Aliza and the experience is not easy to explain. Certainly, she was young, self-assured, full of life and engaging, like so many you would meet in graduate school. Maybe it was the guitar on her back that piqued my interest, or the way she introduced her mother, who then generously shared cookies with those of us around the table. Or perhaps it was that when Aliza came into the room to do her thesis presentation, she hugged each of her friends in appreciation for who they were and for their support in this important step in her education. Yes, all of these contributed to my attraction to Aliza, but there was more.
Yet what really got my attention was the content of Aliza’s presentation, with her professional quality slides and confident, open delivery. Her thesis explored the work of Superheroes* (people who travel around donating time for environmental projects and community learning), specifically exploring three themes: transformational learning, spontaneous giving and deep ecology. These were words and ideas I had seldom seen in traditional management courses, yet ones that have been an important part of my professional life. Here was this inspiring woman, captivating the room with her research, her ideas, and her songs. In the spirit of Marshall McLuhan, Aliza showed up as the consummate medium, both transformed and transforming: she was ‘being the change’ she wanted to see in the world.
The spontaneous gift I received on Friday was a wake-up call. I was reconnected with the 'Aliza' in me: the person who wants to connect with others physically, emotionally and mentally; the person who is playful, active and energetic; the person who is willing to take risks and be different; and the person who is committed to the world—not just as an ideal but in specific, practical ways that make a difference. I look forward to more when Phyllis and I have another opportunity to talk with Aliza over lunch.
Just as Aliza offered me a surprise gift, each of us can be a source of gifts to others—every day. When we show up as alive, authentic, open and engaged, each of us can spark a similar expression in others. Indeed, in this Season of Giving, the best gift we give others may well be sharing who we truly are and what we stand for in the world.
* Superheroes are groups of young people who form loose alliances to make the world a better place. They get together and bike to different communities, spontaneously doing things that are environmentally responsible, freely giving of their time and energy. They don't ask for donations or collect money, and they share their commitment with children in the communities they visit.