17 October 2016
An Appreciation for the "Small Stuff" Often Forgotten
by Abby Wiedenhaefer
Entering the fellowship I operated under the assumption that politics, power, and history were a result of great influential forces that were not easily tapped or accessed. I anticipated that ‘making a difference’ was something that required exceptional, unique minds with strategic visions and that, as part of this fellowship, I would discover and explore the uncommon catalysts for change and success. The fellowship was extraordinary in so many ways and unlike anything I had ever done before, however, among the unique experiences and incredible opportunities that I was provided, the most important lesson I learned and observation I had was the significance of the seemingly ‘small stuff.’
We met with notable people from all different backgrounds and perspectives and were afforded the opportunity to pick their brains and learn from their experience and expertise. While I certainly gained unique perspectives along the way and participated in memorable conversations and discussions, what stood out most was the ability of candor, humility, authenticity, and kindness to create instantaneous, mutual respect among diverse individuals and strangers. Numerous speakers stick out in my mind not because of their riveting stories or expert advice (which was also well received), but because of their unfaltering respect and kindness that was instantly duplicated by, among, and between us, allowing for more beneficial conversations and increased understanding.
This prosaic but undeniable observation was reinforced by the fellows’ interactions with one another. Although I was able to visit the great pyramids, walk the corridors of ancient mosques, and take a boat ride down the Nile, what moved me most were the people I shared these experiences with, not the experiences themselves. We were afforded extraordinary opportunities of which we are extremely grateful; however, I know I am not alone in my amazement of the ‘ordinary’ and how it poignant it was. Sharing food, music, and laughter with the other fellows is what I cherish most and this is a result of the fellows’ willingness to communicate and appreciate one another. In my pursuit to discover catalysts of success and change, I was reminded of the elemental importance and exponential return of being kind, humble, and genuine above all else. This is perhaps the most simple observation, but, to me, it is also the most important as this is how we will create change and increased understanding.