I love the quiet of the early mornings. One of my favorite things to do is wake up early, pour a cup of hot coffee and just listen to the silence. I start my day that way as often as possible. It centers me. And it is even more powerful on important days and anniversaries like today.
So a few minutes ago, I poured my coffee, and headed to my front porch. As I was opening my front door, I was startled to see an older couple on my front steps, looking closely and intently at the flag that is hanging in front of our house. This is a flag that I hang every year at this time, in memory of those who died on September 11, 2001. And if you look closely at the picture above, you will notice that the red and blue stripes are formed from names… every name of the people who died in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on that awful day. What a terrible day that was, for so many people. Each year, this is my way of honoring and remembering them.
So I opened my door and said “can I help you?” to the couple on my steps. I startled them, and they apologized for intruding. They were profuse in their apologies, and eventually explained to me that they had heard about our flag from a friend. So they came by this morning, on September 11th, to see the flag… and to look for the name of their grandson.
They were crying. And immediately so was I. And I told them they were welcome to stay as long as they wanted to. I closed the door, and left them to their moment with their memories of their grandson. I didn’t ask any questions. I didn’t even ask their names. The most important thing was that they have their moment, and I was happy to lend them my front porch for as long as they needed.
We recently recorded the latest episode of our podcast, The Message Makeover (which will be released next week). And our guest was a dear friend of mine and advisor to The Latimer Group, Phil Bonanno. I won’t steal too much thunder from our wonderful interview with Phil, other than to share this phrase… “The currency of the times is vulnerability.”
Phil shared this idea that one of the few real positives of the last six months has been the fact that so many people have let down their defenses, and have been willing to share their feelings of vulnerability with others. So many things have been torn down since our world changed in the middle of March… including, for many people, an aura of invincibility. Nearly everyone I know admits to feeling a lot more vulnerable than they did in February 2020. (Kind of like how we all felt on September 12th, 2001). That is scary for all of us. But, when we choose to share it with others, it is also empowering and a point of significant human connection.
Some of the most powerful moments I have in our workshops occur when I admit to the participants the level of anxiety I feel about speaking in public. My admission of vulnerability empowers them to be more comfortable in their own anxiety, and it allows us to have a real and open conversation about how to cope with it. Admissions of vulnerability bring us closer together, create human connection, and make communication so much easier.
Anyway… I had an incredibly powerful moment of vulnerability on my front steps this morning, with an older couple who came to my house on the morning of September 11th, to look at my flag, and find the name of their grandson. And it made me think about so many other important and valuable things. So I share it with you.
May the victims of September 11th, including this couple’s grandson, rest in peace. May we never forget them. And when our current health crisis is over, or when it becomes “normal” and we no longer are scared, may we all never forget how powerful the currency of vulnerability really is.
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