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The Defining Dash

September 12, 2007 | by brett | Permalink

I was talking with Joe Cockrell, director of PR for Jobing.com, yesterday in New York City as we walked around Ground Zero looking for Big Al’s Pizza. Given the circumstances of the day, the mood of the city was as somber as the gray, overcast skies looming above.

As we detoured around the closed off streets of the financial district, Joe shared a thought he had conjured in a leadership class. It’s a simple, scary thought for all of us, but one that will come to define us all.

We will one day have a headstone that includes the year of birth, the year of death, and one big, fat dash. This dash says nothing and everything about us all at once.

I saw lots of dashes yesterday as our crew visited Ground Zero. Pictures of fallen firefighters were everywhere. Roses rested beneath names circled by families who had made the pilgrimage to pay last respect. 2,976 names and faces…2,976 dashes.

The dash is forgiving because it does not discriminate. A person barely living life will have the same dash as the person who has lived every moment to the fullest.

But look deeper, and you’ll see that the dash is there as a reminder to us. It is a reminder that although the dash will be unable to define us on the headstone, it defines us as we live on.

Which leads me to the question…what are we doing between the dash?

9-11 memorial picture

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THERE ARE 3 RESPONSES TO THIS INTERVIEW

Steve Says:

September 12th, 2007

That’s a great picture. As usual, your writing is inspirational. What about my dash? What matters? What is my legacy? What am I teaching my children, not my words, but my actions? Great questions.

Kelly G Says:

September 12th, 2007

I recently attended a memorial service for a 19 year old friend of mine who died while vacationing in Hawaii. At her service the poem “the dash” was read. The poem is by Linda Ellis. It is quite beautiful (as was Genevieve):
I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend
he referred to the dates on her tombstone
from the beginning to the end
he noted that first came her date of birth
and spoke the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years
for that dash represents all the time
that she spent alive on earth
and now only those who loved her
know what that little line is worth
for it matters not how much we own”
the cars, the house, the cash
what maters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.
so think about this long and hard
are there things you’d like to change?
for you never know how much time is left,
that can still be rearranged
if we could just slow down enough
to consider what’s true and real
and always try to understand
the way other people feel
and be less quick to anger,
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we’ve never loved before
if we treat each other with respect,
and more often wear a smile
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.
so, when your eulogy is being read
with your life’s actions to rehash
would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spent your dash?

Jacob Boff Says:

September 13th, 2007

The combination of what you wrote and the poem that Kelly G put in makes a beautiful work. My dash is filled with misery, pain, and anger; but it is also filled with fantasy more than it should. Thanks for your words and please tell Kelly G that I said thanks for the poem.

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