What’s On My List

I recently read a list of accomplishments that a graduate of the University of Guelph provided to his fellow alumni in a response to an upcoming 50th reunion. I only got to the second or third bullet point before I abandoned the list and quit reading. I wasn’t sure which emotion was the stronger – disgust or pity. But … it got me thinking.

We’ve all met those individuals who seem to be reciting their resume whenever you meet him or her. I’m always tempted to remind them that our casual meeting is not in fact a job interview or for an Ambassador’s appointment but rather an I’m-glad-to-meet-you kind of encounter. I am curious to hear about what people’s lives have looked like, but I’m not sure earning a six-figure salary or driving some sort of expensive foreign automobile speaks to the value of the life someone has lived. Aren’t our most valuable and precious moments those that came without witness, those that earned no accolades?

Remember that first frog you caught – an accomplishment like no other. Or seeing a shooting star or a double rainbow. Your baby’s first smile. Without much effort at all, and with no training whatsoever, I can eat a dozen cookies, not to brag or anything. In fact, I think I may hold the world record. I won a typing contest a hundred years ago. I think that parallels the Nobel Peace Prize, or close enough. My friend Jeannie won Best Safety Patrol when she was in grade five at Sixth Street School, which trumps my typing award, because as you know – safety first.

A friend recently wrote to me in reference to his marriage in response to my column on being early. He spoke of his “sweetie” who, “knowing some trip is in the offing, will wait until the garage door raises before trying to find proper footwear or cellphone or purse.” My friend uses this time for a few deep breaths, a collecting of one’s self. He has enjoyed almost sixty years of married bliss and waiting for his wife has been more about blessing than burden. I think Phil’s quality of understanding and acceptance has earned one of the top spots on a list of life’s worthy and valuable achievements.

Had the University of Guelph’s alumni list been sent to me personally, I might have imagined responding with my own make-believe list – Solved world hunger. Flew on first woman-ed mission to Venus while the men went to Mars. Swam across the Atlantic. Grew the world’s largest tomato. Survived childbirth four times, which of course I did and perhaps I should be knighted, or its reasonable facsimile, because, as I like to remind my youngest, she came breech and it really hurt. Sneezed thirty-two times in a row with hardly a pause between. Dug wells by hand in third world countries, using a tiny red spoon from the Dairy Queen; not just any Dairy Queen but the Thomson Dairy Queen in Fort Frances, the best Dairy Queen there ever was.

I don’t mean we can’t be proud of our accomplishments and those that required hard work and sacrifice are certainly worth mentioning and I am quick to applaud, but some days getting out of bed is accomplishment enough, putting our shoes on and stepping one foot ahead of the other as we try to find our way into the day is no less impressive than a degree or an Oscar. The best award of all is giving a nod to our self, knowing we matter, knowing we have made a difference no matter how small. And we really don’t need to put the recognition from others on a list, but rather find comfort in knowing we did our best.

wendistewart@live.ca

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