Quality Transformation: Celebration!

David SchwinnDavid Schwinn takes a moment to notice things worthy of celebration, no matter how small.

Those of you who regularly read this blog know that it is triggered each month by something that personally affected me in a deep way over the prior month. This month, there were three such events. The first was the graduation of our daughter, Lisa, from a Masters of Fine Arts program. The second was a retirement party for Joanna Stark, one of my colleagues at Lansing Community College. The third was a concert by James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt. As I searched for what most profoundly struck me in each of those delightful experiences, I found that the common theme was celebration.

For Lisa, it was a celebration of a highly successful woman in mid-career having the courage and insight to deeply commit to her personal passion and make a significant career change. For Joanna, it was a celebration of a full life of proactively embracing diversity as one of the very few educators in mid-Michigan who has devoted her whole life influencing thousands of people to appreciate and act on the value of diversity. For James and Bonnie, it was a celebration of life, itself. For me, that manifests in James’ many performances of Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend.” It’s worth a few minutes to experience their singing it together.

For my wife, Carole, James’ celebration of life manifests in a few words from one of James’ many compositions, “Shower the people you love with love.” She’s in the process of hanging those words in our house as I write this reflection.

This idea of celebration is not new, but we so frequently forget to do it. I’m reminded of a conversation we had with Tom Berry, the late self-described cosmologist and geologian and perhaps the most brilliant person I’ve ever met. At the conclusion of our longest conversation, I asked him the purpose of life. He simply responded, “To celebrate.”

Celebrations do not have to be big events like graduations, retirements, or large musical performances. They can be notes, comments, or even internal reminders that “life is good,” as the Life is Good t-shirt folks like to remind us.

I still remember the simple note one of my most respected bosses at Ford, Frank Macher, sent me nearly 40 years ago, “Ya done good… Frank.” Grading papers gives me a great opportunity to celebrate the insights of my students with comments on their papers. I get to use requests for references for my students as a way to be reminded of their accomplishments and to remind those students of their success.

I even celebrate my own minor successes by excitedly telling Carole that I have finished a blog, planned for a class, completed a chore around the house, or finished grading a set of papers. By the way, my family also deserves and receives, when I can remember, a verbal celebration of their many accomplishments and who they are in the world. As I think of it, I also sometimes remember to close emails to my colleagues, bosses, and students with comments on their and our accomplishments.

I recently waited in the parking lot of a McDonald’s in a nearby small town for one of my grandchildren. Grandchildren are sometimes late for appointments. Because we are doing an experiment in preparation for our upcoming book tentatively titled Practicing Wholeness, I decided to “act as if” I were one with everything around me. I silently celebrated and thanked the trees and plants for giving me oxygen, the truckers for transporting the goods we all need to make our lives a little better, the birds for just being cute, and the other people in the parking lot as they came and went into the McDonald’s for being my fellow human beings in our journey together. Funny thing about celebration. It brings a smile to your face. That smile brought smiles to the faces of many of those other folks in the parking lot. It even caused some of them to verbally greet me. What power even silent celebration has!

Celebration is a final step in many models for problem-solving, innovation, and transformation. I hope you agree it’s a practice worth remembering. I think if we can find ways to celebrate what we’ve accomplished and overcome, who we are, and the world around us, our journey toward transformation will be a little easier, joyful, and productive.

As always, I treasure your thoughts and questions.