Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Big dreams will always outlive you...

Tuesday was a very profound day for me. I had routine stuff in the morning but I was able to have lunch with one of our Qatari colleagues who is leaving for the U.S.A. for English and graduate school study. I thought I was only going for lunch but he took me to his private tailor to have two thobes made for me. He absolutely refused to allow me to pay for them and I am not quite sure how to respond - other than be grateful. The result will be that soon I'll have two full Qatari national dress outfits. I can hardly wait to wear them. Another aspect of the parting lunch ritual was to ask him about his experience and what we might do to improve our effectiveness with students. It was a great conversation and bodes well for the work he will do in the U.S.A. I can only pray that he will be treated with respect...

The other thing that happened was that I spent 1.5 hours on the phone and computer with a webinar on Deeper Learning in Leadership. I'm not sure that webinars are my favorite form of communication but at least the webinar provided the opportunity to talk about the importance of deeper leadership across many miles and with a wide spectrum of participants. I assume I'll find out over the next several days if the webinar was satisfactory.

As I prepared for bed tonight, I went for a walk and listened to Dr. Craig Barnes' sermon on Joseph, son of Jacob, who was sold into servitude in Egypt when his brothers became so irritated with his dream stories and "favored son" mindset that they couldn't stand it any more. Dr. Barnes had, as usual, a very different twist on the story. He likened being taken into Egyptian exile to the isolation and separation that results in adolescence when our children begin to rebel against the precious, perfect, optimistic images we generally hold of them. Dr. Barnes said that all children have to break free of the confining, idealized roles to which we confine our children, even if it takes doing outrageous things to escape our grasp - a very interesting interpretation of adolescence. The bottom line was that Joseph's exile from his family was very critical and, indeed, it saved his family and his family's families during the famine that would follow many years later. Joseph's own brothers didn't even recognize him when they saw him in Egypt, perhaps because Joseph had grown out of his adolescent pride and narcissism. After growing up, he was able to serve his brothers who came to beg for wheat, even though they were the very ones who were responsible for his exile. He had become a different person because of the humility he acquired during his separation from family and loved ones. Kind of speaks to the collegiate experience, doesn't it.

The parting reflection by Dr. Barnes was that Joseph had many dreams, dreams that he literally had no idea what they meant. However, his dreams became so great that they outlived his egotism and his youthful bravado. He had great dreams that helped Egypt, his family, and ultimately perhaps saved an entire generation of his people. Big dreams will always outlive you.

I go to bed tonight knowing that somehow maturity has blessed me with an understanding that my big dreams will, and have, outlived me. A colleague off to study English and student affairs to return to the Arabian Gulf to make higher education work here. A webinar that I never imagined 30 years ago in terms of technology, reach, or interest of others. What we started at Maryland in 1976 has far outlived my time there and has become so much more than anything we had imagined. Amazing how big, big dreams can become.

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