Hope and Dreams for 2013 by Eileen McDargh

Having gone through a bitter, blistering United States presidential election and the tragic loss of life at Sandy Hook Elementary School, writing about hopes and dreams seems almost far fetched.. the fodder for fairy tales. Hurricane Sandy chewed up our East Coast and gnawed on the bones of subways, power lines, and houses while plunging a million people into darkness and for some, eventual despair.

We listen to “leaders” who discredit science as mere “opinion” and shout at each other from rigid positions that lack the critical thinking needed to reach solutions.  Greed, consumption and self-interest seem rampant.

How does one hope much less dream? So much seems outside our control.

This is where I turn to the wisdom of Parker Palmer, an educator, writer and the founder of the Center for Courage and Renewal which helps educators, physicians, non-profit leaders and clergy to “rejoin soul and role”.

At a time when I was torn between my work and accepting a slot to become president of a national association, my twin brother John, a professor at Boston College, told me to get Palmer’s book, Let Your Life Speak.  As serendipity would have it, Parker and I were guests at the same retreat house. He had come to facilitate the Faith and Politics session. I had come to be quiet and think.

His advice to me then was “What matters now? What’s next?” I realized that the heady “glory” of the title “president” was fleeting and in the end, what mattered most was serving my clients and audiences in their quest for creating professional and organizational resiliency.

Entering 2013, I believe Parker would offer the same advice except he would extend something else for our consideration.  Specifically, forget being successful in 2013. Instead, be willing to stand in the “tragic gap and be faithful.

Parker says the “tragic gap” is the place between reality and possibility. The gap is where action happens.  This is where Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther Kind, Dorothy Day, and Mother Teresa stood. It is “tragic” because the gap never closes, a flaw of our human nature.

So for those of us high achievers who want to think we are making a difference somewhere, that we can bring people together in truth, compassion, and humanity, we will never be able to say “Done!”.

Contrary to the subsequent notion that we should just retreat into our own little spheres and throw up our hands in despair, Parker urges “faithfulness”.   This is faithfulness to the talent and gifts we all bring to the world and whatever way we might work them.  The big goals, the numbers racked up, the many wins might never happen. Instead, as we move into a new year, could we reach December 31, 2013 and be able to say, “To the best of my ability, I was faithful.”

That seems so much more doable: be present for this day, stand in “the tragic gap”, and respond with faithfulness to my work, my community, my world.  It’s not a dream. I choose to make it real.

C 2013, Eileen McDargh.  All rights reserved.

Eileen McDargh is a Hall of Fame professional speaker, management consultant, resiliency expert and top thought-leader in leadership.


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