Tuesday, May 03, 2011

In honour of my mentor

I spent this evening at a celebration/retirement party for a woman I have come to greatly respect and admire over the last few months.

When I started my new job in February, I was told that I would be partly taking over from Lorraine – a long-time staff member retiring at the end of March. I quickly realized that I had very large shoes to fill.

Tonight there were testimonies from people who have known and worked with her for many years. She was described by a former colleague as “a courageous advocate and prophetic voice, speaking truth to power, challenging stereotypes and “the way we’ve always done it”, asking fundamental questions of governments and systems about the failure of the adversarial model, and witnessing to the conviction that we can do better if only we put people and their needs at the centre of the justice equation.”

Through this and other testimonies, a constant theme was Lorraine’s compassion, courage, faithfulness and wisdom. It was inspiring to listen to – not just because you hope that someday people might say lovely things about you, but because it showed that at the end of the day, what matters the most is not the number of hours logged in the office, the degrees and prizes acquired, the funds raised – what people remember is the way in which you engaged with those around you, the strength of character you displayed and the constancy of your faith.

It’s easy to get caught up in the drudgery of tasks, emails and reports. Tonight I was reminded of the vision behind all we do. And it’s when we lose sight of this vision that tasks become chores and not means to a greater end. I was also reminded that the how can be just as important as the what and the why.

Tonight I heard testimonies to Lorraine who, it seems, has not let the what of her vision and the infinite tasks required to put that vision into practice, obscure the importance of respecting the how and the why. This is something I know I still stand to learn. I am so grateful to have such a wise mentor to learn from.

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