Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Wind Behind Their Backs

Last week I was at a conference in Chicago. Taking advantage of the hour time difference, I got up early for a run. I left my hotel and jogged (I never go faster than a jog) up Monroe Street toward Lake Michigan. When I arrived at the lake, I decided to run toward the west. The weather was unseemly warm for Chicago in April—about 55 at 6:30 a.m., and the sky was a clear blue. Watching other runners, seeing the sunlight reflect off the lake and guessing the value of the harbored boats helped pass the time. I must admit this was an easy run, and I was feeling good.

However, when I turned around and started back home, I noticed a strong headwind. No longer was the run so easy. I had to battle the wind which winded me. The way back was much slower and much more painful. My enthusiasm for a Lake Michigan run faded some.

Upon my return to the hotel, I realized I never noticed the wind when it was helping me, just when I had to fight it. And that led me to contemplate all my blessings that act as the wind behind my back. I am healthy; I have a great job, and all my material needs are met. I have resources saved for a rainy day. Perhaps most importantly, I come from a loving family who ensured I had an excellent education and provided me with the opportunity to gain the skills and habits of mind that have allowed me to have a secure and happy life. And on most days, like the wind behind my back at the start of my run, I never notice these blessings. When I think of what I accomplish, I think of the hard work I put in. I do not give credit to my life circumstances.

Likewise, Duke School students do not realize how their education will forever act as the wind behind their backs. The skills, habits and relationships our students are currently developing will support them as they move forward in their education, through high school, college and graduate school. They will also help them as they enter the workforce and strive to live a happy, fulfilling life. Those of you who make this education possible are acting as wind machine providing a tailwind for life. What a wonderful, if often unnoticed, blessing.

Realizing our blessings should also make us more cognizant and empathetic to those who are continually running against the wind. Just as I should not define my success only by my hard work, I should refrain from judging others whose life circumstances make their journeys much harder than mine. This is another important lesson we must impart to our children. Realizing that others must work harder to achieve should lead them to be kind people and just and fair leaders who will help solve tomorrow’s problems. What could be more important?