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Maturity: The Balance of Courage and Consideration
April 2009

Did you ever see the movie Groundhog Day? In it, a man wakes up, messes up his day and goes to bed. The next morning, it isn’t the next morning - it’s the same morning. Groundhog Day again... and again and again. Every day is the same day - until he gets it right.

In a way, we are all starring in the Great Groundhog Day movie. We wake up each morning - same name, same thoughts, same history. We are pretty much recycling the same story. Our own. And every time the sun rises, we get another chance to perfect the experience of being alive.

“Perfected” is one of the definitions of maturity. “Fully developed in body or mind, completed, elaborated in full, PERFECTED.”

Hrand Saxenian of Harvard Business School defined maturity differently: “the balance between courage and consideration.”*

Well, if that’s the case, then I met an amazing model of maturity walking in the rain beside Engishman River one Sunday. Three-year-old Mary was with her father, little brother, and her mother who was ready to give birth any minute - literally. Mary walked up to me.
“What’s your name?” “Joanne.”
“How old are you?”
“Sixty.”
Then she reached out her hand and took mine. “Nice to meet you, Joanne.”
Her eyes really saw me. She obviously wasn’t thinking of anything else while looking into my eyes. She was totally there.
“Are you a grundba?”
“Yes, I am a grandma.” She smiled.
Then Mary went to my son Luke. “What’s your name?” “How old are you?” She took his hand. “Nice to meet you, Luke.” She was obviously interested in everyone, because no one was left out.
We were all mesmerized by this 3-year-old angel in the woods. I asked her mother, “Did you teach her this?” She shook her head no, smiling. This was more than good manners. Somewhere May had seen and heard this human greeting, liked it, and made it her own. She wanted to meet everyone in the woods, or the world, and now, given the proper form, she set out to do it.
My granddaughter walked up from the riverbank.
“Hi, what’s your name?”
“Lena.”
“How old are you?”
“Four and a half. How old are you?”
“I’m three minutes.”

We all laughed in joy. Mary’s response reminds us how new she is to the planet. Who is this young soul in a tiny body with mud all over her raincoat, who is eager to meet and appreciate everyone; who has the perfect balance of courage and consideration? A angel, a saint, a buddha perhaps? An old soul for sure.

Mary was not just being nice. She was curious, courageous, kind, and fully aware of the importance of everyone she encountered on that rainy day, hours before her new sibling was born. She had courage and consideration in perfect balance.

It takes courage to live a full life. I remember Yogi Bajan shouting to us in 1973 under the hot New Mexico sky. “You have to have courage. No freaking out!”

It’s true. Life’s a trip. It’s NOT a day at the beach. It takes courage to get up and go out into the world; it takes courage to clearly envision goals and go after them. But beyond that, those who mature to the level of recognizing the importance, presence, and treasure of every other human being are the ones we celebrate and seek to emulate.

The greats in humanity’s story, like Gandhi, didn’t leave the outsiders outside, or anyone forgotten on the river path. Gandhi set out to liberate not half of India, but all of India -Moslems, Hindus, and anyone else. He is a perfect example of maturity: unimaginable courage and unfathomable consideration. It’s the same with the other greats of human history - the ones we revere and honor with holidays.

But the Groundhog Day story calls all of us to be a great. No problem. There’s a quiet revolution in process. It’s not a do-good kind of morality, but rather a growing awareness that we are all connected; we win or lose together.

Whether we are coming to this awakening from a social, economic, political, scientific or spiritual perspective, the fact remains, we are coming to it. And it’s happening at the negotiating table, the kitchen table, and the cutting table at the fabric store.

It’s humanity’s great Groundhog Day opportunity. We’ve done it wrong, again and again, and now we’re getting inklings on how to do it right.

Another day, another change, another chance.

*Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. P217.