Having it Happen

Coffee Klatch as Foretold by Mayme

I was 19 when I met my fairy good mother.  Thirty four years later, in February of 2009, Mayme and I had our last conversation.  She is the … voice in 100 VOICES – AMERICANS TALK ABOUT CHANGE.

I found Mayme through her daughter Margie.  She was in a nursing home and spending her days increasingly occupied with Alzheimer’s.  In spite of her condition, Mayme remembered me immediately and, well above the fog of her diagnosis, she spoke for ten minutes or more as she always had.  Among here words were these.  “Change,” she said, “is taking everything we have and listening to it so we can know where to go next.”

Mayme Porter was likely in her early 50’s when we first met.  She was a professor of Education at Austin College, the small liberal arts college where I was a freshman.  Mayme became my fairy got mother over time, but looking back I can see it didn’t take long.

She saw me through my parent’s divorce in the Spring of my freshman year. She talked Literature and Psychology as I moved towards majoring in both.  She housed and nursed me on the occasion of all four wisdom teeth being extracted.  She introduced me to sanity, if not life-saving health care processes.

I began preventative treatments, also at 19, with our friend Jim whose magnificent chiropractic practice was based way ahead of its time in the generous and exacting art of applied kinesiology.  There was one day I’ll always remember when I needed Jim for treatment beyond prevention.  I had somehow wrenched my 21-year-old neck out of whack while running around the track.  I called and Jim was available presto – even though the same night of my neck fiasco a fire had scurried through his offices and he had to treat me among ashes.

I had come to know Jim first several years prior (probably starting at 19) when at Mayme’s invitation, I’d begun what became years of participation in a small group of super esteemed grown-ups including Jim the chiropractor and Dee and Carolynn, two complete sages masquerading as kindergarten teachers.  Together we supported each other through a peer counseling approach Mayme taught us called Re-evaluation Counseling.

Prior to and throughout the years since, I’ve remembered and passed on many of the things Mayme taught me – the one that rides on the soft breeze blowing through my thoughts today is one she told me in our very first conversation.  I don’t remember the context, but I remember the words:  If you want to help something happen, you have to have it happen.

Everything I lived through and learned from Mayme – including those treatments I had with Jim and my hikes through the shifting terrain of thoughts and feelings unfolding across my young life – had an additional richness because of her early words to me.  Everything I lived then and live now helps me know how to be a person – a mom, a wife, a professor, coach, consultant, researcher – a citizen.

This week I’m learning again of the vital nature of experience as a basis for leadership.  I’m re-learning with memories of leaders I’ve known and learning anew through direct contact with leaders I have the good fortune to engaging with now.  And I’m learning as ever from my own experiences of success and failure and the way this inevitable terrain of life in a body moves through its days refined for focus, as each of us chooses, on service – on innovation and solutions – on helping happen as best we can.


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