I recently had a conversation with a soul friend and he told me about a talk he’d recently given at a local college that moved him and I’m sure, his audience profoundly. Although the topic was career law and rather straight forward the part of his talk that the students connected with and clung to the most was about human side of law and the humans that study and practice law.
When preparing for the presentation he told me it became clear to him he needed to make a bit of philosophical decision. He thought, do I talk at these students strictly about the facts of practicing from safely behind my protective wall or do I share appropriately, more deeply from the heart about the blood, guts and tears, victories and defeats of the real journey of the last couple of decades. My brave and intelligent friend chose the latter and that made all the difference.
The students loved his talk as students ALWAYS do when the presenter speaks from the heart of personal experience as well as with a command of the text book. My friend will no doubt be asked back to contribute to more classes. As one who still keenly remembers intimate conversations with guest lectures from high school and college I have no doubt my friend shifted the arc of living and learning for some of these students forever.
Real exchange, learning, and community building occurs when any of us are brave enough to expose our vulnerabilities to the people we are engaging. When we let down our guard long enough and take off our masks of “the one who knows” and admit to ourselves and to our audience even if it’s an audience of one, that we don’t have all the answers, that we are human and that we have learned more from our challenges and defeats than from our victories, formal education or pedigree.
If we consistently meet others, with mutual commonality as Fr Greg Boyle put it, instead of in a more knowledge provider/knowledge recipient way, we will be fertilizing the soil of real growth, real relationship building and we will be improving the world one encounter at a time, I’m sure of it.
This is the way of the hero.