I'm absolutely sure that I did not achieve many of the dreams my parents must have had for me.
I wasn't first in my class. I never made it to the moon. I didn't end up being a diplomat. I'm not running a company or breaking any world records. That Pulitzer prize never came. I have not made a million dollars. I haven't invented anything or discovered anything. I work for a middle-sized company, in a middle-management part-time job. By any measurements, I ended up as a very boring, average adult with no real outstanding achievements. Nothing to write home about.
And I'm OK with that. Really, I am.
But, somehow, and I'm not really sure how - both my sister and I managed to do the one thing that I think was valued most of all in our home: caring about something greater than ourselves.
My sister has done more for the environment than the rest of us put together. She's amazing. She is one of the rare people on this earth who "walk the walk" and live a truly eco-friendly life. She's a naturalist and works in the field of her passion. (And in her spare time, she teaches children about the environment, coaches kid's hockey, and works with disadvantaged kids.)
Me, I do what I can in the area of child poverty through Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the local schools. (Last week, that included dealing on a detailed level with really fun issues like sexual predators, parole officers and severe domestic violence. It's a laugh a minute, I tell you!)
Again, we aren't doing anything remarkable or earth shattering. Nothing we do takes any special intelligence or personality trait. We just show up to help - week after week after week after week. We don't know any different. This is how we were raised. It's like brushing our teeth. It's just something you do.
When I hear Obama speak, I think of my parents and how they have lived their lives and the values they passed on to my sister and to me. Community service is not optional. It's not something you talk about on Sundays at church, and then forget for the rest of the week. It's just something you do. Something you do today, and next week, and the week after that. You see a problem, and you step up to lead the solution. You put in your time, your money, your sweat and your tears. No excuses.
When I hear Obama speak, I imagine a world in which everyone steps up to help others in need.
And since this is my little fantasy world, I particularly imagine a world in which everyone calls up their local Big Brothers/Big Sisters office and signs up. I've been a "Big" for nearly 20 years and I've never seen as much need as I see right now - my own city has over 300 kids on the waiting list. There is dire child poverty right in our own backyards. There are kids who are desperate for a mentor - right in our neighborhoods.
I don't actually agree with every one of Obama's political views. But I wholeheartedly believe in his call to all Americans to embrace service to others as part of their every day life. His speech today sent shivers up my spine. Imagine what we could achieve if everyone were committed and involved. That is change I can believe in!