You know how they say opposites attract? Well, while we unite on values and fundamental issues of importance, Travis and I have very different personalities. I am outgoing, he is more reserved. I am high-strung, he is laid-back. I am emotional, he is level-headed. I can be volatile, he is always composed. I am a talker, and he is a man of few words. While we both pursued business degrees, we took very different career paths.
Me (financial development for national non-profit organizations): "Come on! Let's draft a proposal citing the benefits of strategic philanthropy and how xyz company can leverage their sponsorship for maximum ROI and let's go convince xyz company CEO to give us tens of thousands of dollars! Yaaay!"
Travis: "No thanks. That doesn't sound like fun."
Travis: (information technology for a global for-profit manufacturing company): "Let's create a ghost image from the mainframe of the bus network and circumvent the DOS prompt to connect the USB directly to the parallel port in order to reinstall the operating system to maximize function."
Disclaimer: That sentence made no sense. Ask anyone who knows anything about IT. But this is what it sounds like to me when Travis talks about his job.
Me: "I'd rather walk on my lips!"
Please excuse the low quality pictures. I'm pretty sure I didn't scan them right as Mr. Technology wasn't here to help me ;-)
Because Travis doesn't go around telling anyone who will listen his thoughts and feelings, not nearly enough people get to fully experience the gentle, loving, hysterically funny, generous and kind-hearted person her truly is. And because Travis' personality is so humble and reserved, he's not exactly out there broadcasting his every thought and action all over the blogosphere. He doesn't really mind me doing it, as long as the focus stays off of him. Normally, I can easily honor that request by filling CCE with stories about my adventures staying home with the children.
Meanwhile, Travis has continued to thrive in the business world. He now has his MBA and he's currently taking a Dale Carnegie course as part of a continuing education/career development plan. Last week he came home and set two small boxes on the counter and said "I won an award for a speech I gave in my Dale Carnegie glass and I got a pen" Now folks, if left to his own devices, this is where the story would have ended. But you know me - I continued to pry...especially when I found out the speech was about Leanne.
The class was tasked with making a speech about something that inspires them. Travis chose to speak about his sister-in-law. He talked about how she is always positive and upbeat. She does not dwell upon her disability and the challenges that accompany it. He talked about how she is grateful for the little things in life. He even told the "new underpants" story:
My mom, sister, Travis, and I were wandering around Opry Mills mall in Nashville when my mom wanted to duck into a store to get some new undergarments for Leanne. They picked out their items, went to the check out, and my mom paid the cashier. As the cashier handed the bag across the desk, Leanne excitedly exclaimed "New underpants - YEEEESSSSS!!!" and she slapped a high five on the cashier followed by the rest of us. Travis never recovered from the attack of laugher that he succumbed to in that moment.
Travis then went on to explain in his speech that not only does Leanne appreciate the little things in life but she is very selfless and generous. He talked about how she takes great pride in her job: making dog biscuits that are sold to banks to pass out in the drive-through. Even though this job isn't particularly prestigious or lucrative, Leanne is grateful to have it and she is very proud of the work she does. She is even proud of her $9 paychecks, which she always wants to spend buying things for us.
The participants in Travis' class voted on the speeches and upon winning, Travis was presented with a pen that reads "Outstanding Performance" and he had to give an acceptance speech. He explained that Leanne collects pens and that he would give it to her. Right then, the teacher ran off to find another pen, especially for Leanne.
Despite Travis' repeated attempts to downplay the importance of his speech and award, it meant the world to me. If you asked a class full of business professionals who they seek inspiration from, you might expect to get a list of influential business tycoons ranging from John D. Rockefeller to Warren Buffet. But who would expect an ambitious young professional to cite a developmentally delayed adult who relishes in new underwear and spends her days making dog biscuits as a source of inspiration?
From the day he met Leanne, Travis was receptive enough to embrace her with an open heart and he learned that you don't have to have a high IQ, a prestigious career, or a hefty bank account to be able to make a valuable impact on this world. Leanne has so much to teach us about kindness, gratitude, a positive attitude, and a generous spirit, just by being herself. Travis is among a fortunate few who has truly gotten to know Leanne, and he considers himself better for it. And that's why I felt it important to twist Travis' arm until he let me share this story beyond his Dale Carnegie class - it's contains a message of inspiration that we can all appreciate.