“It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is due to so much pain in someone else’s,” Lupita Nyong’o tearfully said in accepting her Oscar for best supporting actress at the Academy Awards.
I have a business acquaintance whose mother discovered an old book as a child and as an adult fought for it to survive in the modern world. Her diligence led to that book being republished and was part of the reading I did when I took the best class I had when attending LSU. It was a class on the Civil War by renowned historian and Pulitzer Prize winner, T. Harry Williams. That book was “Twelve Years a Slave” by Solomon Northup. Northup’s story of the horrors from that Southern plantation is just a half-day’s drive from where I live.
I watched a moment that transcended time in that Oscar acceptance speech. It has been over 160 years since Northup first told his story. A young actress in her debut movie, who as a child had prayed for lighter skin, was cast as the African slave, Patsy. It was a role Lupita Nyong’o was destined to perform; that of a young, strong, beautiful, vulnerable woman from Africa. I read that Lupita “talked” to Patsy each day of filming to try to be true and honest to her spirit.
From Northup writing down his story, to a 12 year old girl discovering his book in 1930, to a filmmaker visualizing it for the world to witness, to an actress becoming that slave—Patsy’s voice is finally being heard across time. It is a strong voice that still resonates with us today.
I say a prayer that when the Universe sends me a gift that I have the wisdom to see it. Another Oscar winner spoke of the power of gratitude. I am filled with gratitude for a gift I received this week. It too transcended time.
I wrote a story about my Dad for Father’s Day. He was a man with a generous heart and a big personality. In the blog I tell of him being a local character, a man who did his own commercials for the business he started. I posted a vintage photo of him producing and starring in one of those commercials.
Months after that post, I got a blog comment from someone at Harvard Business School. The school wanted to use this photo in a teaching documentary that explores the evolution of advertising/marketing. This led to a nice connection and conversation with the filmmaker that went beyond discussion of the history of advertising. We shared stories of our parents and grandparents and their family-owned businesses and how lucky we were to have had real connection with our community because of those businesses that now were just a memory.
I gave him the name of a salesman who knew my dad and still worked at the TV station where the photo was taken to help his research. John had been young in his sales career when he called on my dad selling airtime from the TV station. He called me as soon as he ended his conversation with the filmmaker. It’s been nearly 20 years since my dad had passed away. John had been wanting to tell me stories I did not know after all those years. He shared a funny story of my dad introducing him to his first big taste of hot Chinese mustard and of my dad telling him how much he loved my mom and that it was important to honor the women in your life. But it was the story I didn’t know from my Dad’s bankruptcy that warmed my heart the most.
I was in my 20’s when my dad went out of business. His small business could not compete with the national big box stores that moved to town. John said that my Dad owed money to many people when he went bankrupt. What I didn’t know was that he paid back everyone he owed money to, even though he was under no legal obligation to repay that debt. He payed it in $25 and $50 increments and he did it over years. It was important to John that I know that my dad paid back every dime to everyone he had a debt with. And it was powerful for me to hear John’s story of my dad.
It takes an honorable person to do the right thing when no one is looking. I will be forever grateful that I learned this decades-old story of my dad. I knew my dad was a good father and a good man. It’s wonderful to learn of how his life affected others.
Our lives leave ripples. We often never know where those ripples land. It’s important to know that a life lived with integrity leaves its impact upon the world. It can even transcend time.
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