Today was an incredible day for many different reasons. It was incredibly uplifting. It was incredibly sad. It started with an incredible keynote address by Marco Torres. And it ended with an incredibly moving funeral service. Ironically, both the start and the end had a similar theme: that of passion and purpose.
From the 8:45 a.m. to 10:10 a.m. time slot, Marco Torres had me once again at the edge of my seat during his key note address. He spoke of meeting Danica, a waitress and coffee artist in Australia. He spoke of putting love into the things that you do. In this case, it was making artwork on the coffee. He spoke of voracious learners. He spoke of creating chefs not cooks. He spoke of creating top learners, not top students. His passion for providing the very best learning environment for students was evident throughout his talk.
From 11:45 to 12:45, I attended a session called “Creating a Film Festival in Your Community”. This session was hosted by two twenty-something students of …you guessed it Marco Torres. Rosa and Elizabeth were incredibly articulate when they discussed how running this film festival empowered them to be leaders. That everyone has a purpose or a role. They called on the young man, William, who was photographing this session. He spoke of how his role, of handling all of the equipment, made him feel wanted and part of a community. Rosa and Elizabeth spoke of how powerful it was to give students, who might not shine academically, a chance to shine. Feeling a sense of purpose was the thread that was woven throughout this talk.
From 2:00 to 3:15, I went to a session called “Inspiring Passion Driven Learning” by Angela Maiers. The top two words again: passion and purpose. She described passion as “Passion is not fun stuff, it is the stuff that makes a scientist excited about a molecule. Passion is not a hobby, but it is what wakes you up at night thinking about it. Would you do this for free? Would you fight to keep doing it? It is drive, determination, tenacity. It is not a project, but it is content and desire to live a life of meaning and to do things that matter.” Angela spoke of the need to make sure that our students feel that they have a purpose.
And then, from 5:45 to 6:45, I was at a funeral service. A funeral service for the 46 year old brother of one of my dearest friends who had died after a 15 month battle with cancer. Since I grew up with Jo-Ann, I knew her five brothers and sisters just like she knew my four brothers and sisters. We were both the oldest, we both had a brother named David, and we now both have lost a sibling to cancer. Her brother David, who just died, was somewhat of a modern Henry David Thoreau. He walked to his own drummer. As his brother said during his eulogy, he never married, he never had children, he didn’t go to college. Yet, he was a learner. One as Marco earlier described. as a voracious learner. He taught himself to draw. He taught himself to create incredible culinary masterpieces. He was a chef, not a cook. He read the Bible from cover to cover. He learned about anthropology.
Then, after being diagnosed with cancer, he started a project that speaks volumes to his passion and purpose. His youngest nephew was in and out of Children’s Hospital with some health issues. David bonded with this nephew over the bond of knowing the toll that a hospital stay can play on both children and adults. They discussed, this 46 year old and this six year old, on how David’s art could be placed in the lobby of Children’s Hospital in Boston to bring a smile to patients and their families. And one month ago, this dream became reality. David was not a “top student”, but he had heart and as Maiers said, ” it is content and desire to live a life of meaning and to do things that matter. ” His artwork indeed made a difference to the many people who pass through that lobby every day.
The Chaplain from the Hospice where David spent his last few weeks of his life discussed David’s passion and purpose. The same two words that started my day where now ending my day. David described his artwork as “first a hobby that has lead to a lifelong passion and a meaning of expression for him.” Rosa and Elizabeth described the student films as a way to express themselves as well as giving these students a sense of purpose.
Passion and Purpose. Two words that on this July day, had incredible significance to me.