Whose shoulders do I stand on?

When I reflect on where I am as a person, as an educator, as an activist, and as a soon-to-be-parent I know that there are a lot of people who have helped me exist where I am currently. There are people who have taught me important concepts & skills, people who challenged me to approach things a little differently, people who expanded my consciousness and knowledge, people who were examples for how to succeed in ways that I admire. I wouldn’t be the person that I am without them.

We all have these people in our lives. Whether direct relationships or indirect. We have partners, friends, supervisors, mentors, parents, and neighbors who have influenced us positively. We have public figures, entertainers, educators, speakers, and authors who have challenged us and pushed us. I don’t think enough about who those people are and how they’ve influenced me and I don’t think often enough about how we should demonstrate gratitude to them.

I recently thought more about this when listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Denzel Washington is the Greatest Actor of All Time. Period. One of the hosts, either Kevin Avery or W. Kamau Bell, mentioned in an episode from almost a year ago about the reason they were doing the podcast is because they want to be able to tell Denzel Washington (and other people) how much they admire him before something happens to him or he passes away. And I think we all need to do that more. Whether in a public manner (like a blog post) or through an email or gift or some personal gesture.

For me, this reflection and this demonstration of gratitude is personal so I won’t be shouting anyone out today. There are many people I feel grateful for being in my life. There are people who simply took the time to sit and have coffee or lunch with me. There are people who were supervisors and teachers and imparted so much. There are family and friends who challenge me to push my perspective beyond what I think I know. There are authors and entertainers and public figures who have written or spoken or acted in ways that I admire and helped me shift my own beliefs and actions toward their example. These are the people whose shoulders I stand on. These are the people without whom I wouldn’t be who I am.

One of the easiest things that I can do to show appreciation is send a message to those who have helped me through the years. Whether they are personal contacts or public figures, I can find a way to contact them to demonstrate gratitude. Another way is to live within their example and pass along the inspiration they’ve shared with me to my own sphere of influence. Then I can recognize that their influence is being passed along through me. I can recognize that the conversation that I may be having with a student or mentee or peer is inspired by their work and that our interbeing is stronger as a result of learning from them that I’m passing along to another.

I firmly believe that we all need to (myself included!) pass along gratitude to our inspiration both directly through tokens and messages of gratitude. But we also can embrace the concept of indirect gratitude through sharing their wisdom with someone else and spreading the word/knowledge of what we have gained so that others may also grow through their work.

Tell me your thoughts