If you are like me, the beginning of a new year brings with it a degree of reflection on what the previous twelve-months brought with them, coupled with the anticipation of what the next twelve-months have in-store. In either instance, accompanying these thoughts are often times emotions that bubble to the surface as we dig deep within ourselves exploring our regrets, our hopes, and everything in-between.
For me, a great deal of my personal reflection of late has focused on issues of character, integrity, and reputation. As someone who has been actively involved in whatever community I have lived in, and as someone who has worked in community media as a columnist, radio host, and television host, I have always made a point of ensuring that I do my best to live my life with character and integrity. I do so not only because they are among the values that I hold most dear, but also because not to do so would be a disservice to the very organizations and initiatives I aspire to impact in a positive way.
More recently, I have found myself reflecting on the toll that comes with having any kind of public profile. Whether it is a person seeking public office, or someone who is simply active in their local community, the reality is that those who put themselves out there are often times the subject of great scrutiny and judgment by individuals who know little, if anything about them.
I first began reflecting on the judgments and impacts associated with public service as I watched the U.S. Presidential election unfold. Perhaps one of the most visceral elections on record, hardly a day went by where you could not help but speak to someone who offered-up their opinion on one or both of the candidates. Sadly, more often than not, those opinions were harsh, uninformed, and filled with personal judgments. Indeed, when it comes to those in the public spotlight it is easy to cast aside the benefit of the doubt we might otherwise give someone, and simply speak ill of them. Even more unfortunate is our ability to do so within our own community.
Drawing now on my own journey, January 2017 represents a rather substantial milestone. It was one year ago this month that I underwent surgery to have a ‘golf ball’ sized brain tumor removed. Though I am better today, words can hardly express what the first six-months after surgery were like for me. As someone who makes a living based on his ability to communicate, strategize, reason, and negotiate, to be robbed of those abilities – if only for a few months – brought with it a degree of anxiety, frustration, and fear that I could hardly do justice to in words.
Sadly, at the same time I was undergoing my health challenge I was also forced to confront a handful of other issues – some professional, some personal – that had to be addressed, despite my diminished capacity. Moreover, the outcomes of those interactions were not always positive, and even today I still have to put-up with a degree of nonsense from time-to-time (even though my community profile is rather minor).
Having reflected on the scrutiny that goes hand-in-hand for those who aspire to serve their community and make a difference, I would be remise if I did not share one very important lesson – a lesson that I hope will encourage others: if you do your best, own your mistakes, and take the high-road (which sometimes includes remaining silent), you will realize that no matter your circumstances you have more support than you likely ever realized. For me, the amount of encouragement, affirmation and love I have enjoyed this past year have made me feel incredibly blessed. Not to say that in retrospect I could have handles certain things a little better (though, for a guy with a hole in his head I think I did alright during those first six-months), but I am forever grateful for those who gave me the benefit of the doubt and saw the best in me!
For the Record…
In just a few months British Columbian’s will go to the polls to elect the party they wish to lead them. Once again we will all rally around a common theme in our coffee shops and around our water-coolers, offering up our thoughts and opinions about the individuals who are seeking public office. With that in mind, here is my hope for 2017: let us resolve as a community that in all things we will see the best in others, given them the benefit of the doubt, and confront concerns and misgivings rather than allowing them to fester within the toxicity that is our community gossip-pool. We owe it to all those who aspire to better their communities and are willing to but themselves out in the public eye.