About Conversation Kindling

The purpose of this blog is to share stories, metaphors, quotes, songs, humor, etc. in hopes they'll be used to spark authentic and rewarding conversations about working and living fruitfully. There are at least three things you can gain by getting involved in these conversations. First, you'll discover new and important things about yourself through the process of thinking out loud. Second, you'll deepen your relationships with others who participate by swapping thoughts, feelings, and stories with them. Finally, you'll learn that robust dialogue centered on stories and experiences is the best way to build new knowledge and generate innovative answers to the questions that both life and work ask.

I write another blog called My Spare Brain. This is where I am "storing" ideas for use in future books, articles, blog posts, speeches, and workshops. There is little rhyme or reason for what I post there. I do this to encourage visitors to come as treasure hunters looking for new ways of seeing and thinking vs. researchers looking for new or better answers to questions they already know how to ask.

04 April 2014

Call Me Trim Tab

R. Buckminster Fuller - inventor, futurist, and humanitarian - is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery near Boston. His tombstone reads simply:


A trim tab is a small device on a ship’s main rudder that must be turned before turning the large rudder to change course. Fuller saw trim tabs as a symbol for the small but strategic acts that change the course of world events, and he devoted his life trying to determine what a single individual like him - or a small group of like-minded people - could do to better the human condition that large organizations, governments, or private enterprises could not.

There are many individuals who've changed the course of history. A case in point is Rosa Parks, whom the U.S. Congress named "Mother of the Modern-Day Civil Rights Movement." On December 1, 1955, she was seated on a Montgomery, Alabama bus. When the driver ordered her to give up her seat so a white passenger could take it, she refused. Her action ignited the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which was among the first dominoes to fall on the path that led to the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.

Most of us are not in a position to change the world, but we are all capable of improving things in our world. Sadly, many of us forget to do the small things that can make a big difference in the lives of those closest to us. Mother Teresa laments:
"It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start."
Several years ago Rabbi Joseph Telushkin closed his Masters Forum presentation by sharing five short phrases - trim tabs - we can use to heal broken relationships with those close to us, or deepen ones currently in fine repair. It's a great place to start if you want to go there.
  • Thank you. Gratitude is more than a virtue in Telushkin's view: it is the cornerstone virtue, the one on which all goodness is based. Say thank you often and sincerely.
  • I love you. Don't be like the man at his wife's funeral, who was overcome by the love he felt for her but never expressed to her. It's not enough to keep love in your heart - it must be continually handed over to the one you love, in words and in deeds.
  • How are you? This question shows that you care, that you are concerned. Say something to communicate that it matters to you whether the other person lives or dies.
  • What do you need? Ascertaining what a person needs allows you to give him or her what is most meaningful - and thus, the highest expression of your love. But if you don't ask, you won't know.
  • I'm sorry. Once a man came to Telushkin and confessed an inability to come out and say he was sorry for things he had done. Telushkin said, "Can you then say I'm sorry I am unable to say I'm sorry?"
  • What contributions do you dream of making to others?
  • Dag Hammarskjold, former United Nations Secretary General once said, "It is more noble to give yourself completely to one individual than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses." Does his statement ring true with you? How does it intersect with your life today?
  • Of those closest to you, is there one in particular who needs more of your time, attention, and support than you are currently giving? Do you see how applying one or more of Rabbi Telushkin's trim tabs can help repair your relationship with that person? Will you do it?
  • Has anyone every done a small thing for you that ultimately had a profound impact on your life? What did this person do? What impact did it have?
  • What makes someone unforgettable?
"Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless." - Mother Teresa
"To live in love is to accept the other and the conditions of his existence as a source of richness and not as an opposition, restriction or limitation." - Maturana
"Beware how you take away hope from another human being." - Oliver Wendell Holmes
"Falling leaves that lie scattered on the ground,
The birds and flowers that were here cannot be found.
All the friends that he once knew are not around.
They're all scattered like the leaves upon the ground.
Some folks drift along through life and never thrill,
To the feeling that a good deed brings until,
It's too late and they are ready to lie down,
There beneath the leaves that's scattered on the ground.
Lord, let my eyes see every need of every man,
Make me stop and always lend a helping hand,
Then when I'm laid beneath that little grassy mound,
There'll be more friends around than leaves upon the ground.
To your grave there's no use taking any gold,
You cannot use it when it's time for hands to fold,
When you leave this earth for a better home someday,
The only thing you'll take is what you gave away."
- Grandpa Jones, Falling Leaves


P. Walters said...

Very poignant. As a (somewhat) recent owner of a new dog I feel that she has given much of what your post is talking about.

Namely, the constant unconditional love and gratitude for me being simply me.

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Anonymous said...

Once I registered for classes at PSU, I also took a personal development program for women of the day in 1990.
I spoke before a group to reinforce my interviewing skills and potential. At the end of the class I thanked the moderator. She shook her head and said, "That really says you are from the South and it sounds weak and childlike." Later I was told to not use my middle name, again it was childlike........internally I laughed and skipped out of the class remembering Leonardo da Vinci's chillike ways... I know exactly who I am and why I am here. Saying thank you has opened a whole universe for me, energy abounds and sun light fills my days. I love your ideas and commentary. You can thank the whole world if it comes to that. It is the doorway to forever I think.
Thank you for a wonderful place to light!

Barbara Bellehumeur said...

I am Barbara Bellehumeur on FB, not ereserves.............please link me to the page. bmb15@psu.edu