Whether or not you can sing the verse of one of his beloved anthems, or whether he first appeared in your consciousness just over a year ago, when he showed Canadians not only how to step into the recommendations made in the Truth and Reconciliation Report, but also how to face the most horrible diagnosis with grace and love, it is hard to argue against the idea that Gord Downie was a gift to Canada.
Gord Downie seemed to bring out compassion in people. I did not attend any of his final tour performances, but our son-in-law, Matt, who is a huge “Hip” fan, and our daughter Kaitlyn managed to score tickets for two of those concerts. My understanding was that the air in the arenas felt almost reverent. Yes, people were there to hear the music. Yes, people were there to bid goodbye. Some were likely there just to be able to say they were there. But all who were there got so much more from the performance than just the pleasure of hearing their favourite tunes. In Gord Downie, fans found a man who was willing to show vulnerability and strength. A man who was willing to risk making mis-steps on a massive forum. A man who was willing to face an uphill battle with dignity, and who never forgot gratitude. A man who bravely used his voice to say things that other less mortals have been afraid to say.
This week, we seemed fixed to the news when reports of Gord Downie’s death broke. Our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, wept as he spoke of Canada’s friend. This honest response seemed perfectly aligned with the honest battle that Gord Downie so bravely fought. When Peter Mansbridge, perhaps Canada’s most seasoned news personality, interviewed Downie earlier in the year, again, this honest exchange of emotion was evident. This is one of the gifts that Gord Downie has given us; the gift of allowing ourselves to feel and to say what needs to be said.
When I heard that one more Gord Downie album will be released, bearing the title, ‘Introduce Yerself’, I immediately thought, ‘What a perfect title!’. What a perfect gift he has left us with these two words. What a perfect challenge for us. What a perfect way to honour his memory.
At first read, the title, ‘Introduce Yerself’, might conjure up ideas about how we should be a friendly nation of people. It brings to mind the idea of going up to a stranger at an event, holding out a hand and introducing yourself. It brings to mind taking the opportunity to introduce one of your friends or colleagues to someone they don’t yet know. It brings to mind learning to understand and accept differences. Perhaps it makes you think of introducing yourself to a different way of thinking or being. Maybe it is as simple at smiling at a fellow weary traveller. For me, it is something more.
For me ‘Introduce Yerself’ comes with a request. It asks me to fully step into my life, so that when in fact I do, ‘Introduce Myself’ I will be introducing, with honesty, the best possible version of myself. It asks me not to play small, but to bravely take on challenges that I know I can accomplish, but that have been easier to avoid. It asks me to stand up for others who do not have the voice to stand up for themselves. It asks me to use my voice to speak my truth. It asks me, in short, to squeeze every possible ounce out of the life I have been given. It asks me to have the courage to live a brilliant life, with all it’s colours.
Out of all the people who have written comments and spoken tributes about Gord Downie, two short statements stood out for me. Gord Downie’s family released a statement that included, ‘No one worked harder on every part of their life than Gord. No one.’ What a great legacy; what a wonderful way to model ‘Introduce Yerself’.
And Hayley Wickenheiser commented, ‘I kind of feel we lost a teammate almost.’ It seems to me that when a team loses a teammate, it is up to the rest of the team to step in and together to do the work of that missing person. Gord Downie’s work was to bring joy to others through his music, to awaken a country to areas that need our attention, and to live and love and speak fiercely. Now it’s up to Team Canada, the rest of us, to not let this moment slip past. In coaching we say that in every situation there is always an opportunity. Right now, we have such an incredible opportunity to adopt a little piece of Gord Downie’s spirit, and to commit to fully stepping into our own brilliance.
Take your well-deserved place among the stars, Gord Downie. And thank you.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘How am I ‘Introducing Myself’?
Book a coaching session with Elizabeth to help learn how to step fully into your life. Elizabeth provides coaching for individuals and for groups. She also facilitates custom workshops for teams, groups and businesses.