Alas, the Stampede parade, along with almost all other major events in our city, our country and even our world, have been paused until at least next year. To say I’ve been longing to put on my red shirt, black skirt and dancing boots, would be an understatement. I think all the girls in our group are still checking their messages for the one that says, “You won’t believe it but the parade is ON!” We know it can’t happen, but we long for it just the same.
As I was checking my emails for the fabled one from the Stampede Parade, I noticed an email from our friend, Annie. Annie’s husband, Herb, and I started teaching on the same day, at the same school. Herb was teaching music. He was to be the new band director for students from grades six to nine. I was the new math teacher. One would think this would be an unlikely combination for a friendship, but here we are, thirty-nine years later. I still have such a profound respect and admiration for this man. I have been very, very lucky to have crossed paths with Herb. We didn’t teach together for all of those years. About half way through his teaching career, Herb shook our school community to its core when he announced he was moving to a different school, one in High River. The man who taught right across the hallway from me for the first half of my career, left a quietness behind him that could not be filled. We filled the band room again with several wonderful instructors, but the Herb part was irreplaceable. In a wonderful little happenstance of life, years later, my daughter got her first teaching assignment at Herb’s new school and she taught several years with him.
Annie’s email was to let me know that Herb was retiring this year, and she was organizing a surprise event to mark the occasion. It was to begin with a parade in High River and end with a get-together at their art studio. I had plans to watch Ben on Friday, and knew the get-together would not work for us. But I could easily drive to High River with Ben and safely be a part of the retirement parade.
As I thought about my upcoming outing, I spent some time thinking about ‘lessons’ Herb taught me. He didn’t know he was teaching me. Herb is just one of those people who always shows up as the best version of himself. What Herb taught me about life comes in handy these days. I don’t know how Herb became wise. I do know he was wise when I met him, and he is wiser still today. Herb has always understood, and lived with, the belief that there is just as much life to be enjoyed leading up to the ‘big moments’ as there is in being present for those big moments. Herb brought the same amount of enthusiasm to washing the gym floor as he did to conducting the concert band at the year end concert. I never knew Herb to rank things, nor did he rank people. He didn’t seem to think one job, or one person deserved more status than the next. Whoever was in Herb’s presence was the most important. Period.
Of all the things Herb taught me, the thing I value the absolute most is that I could, and can, count on Herb to be Herb. He is one hundred percent himself all of the time. He is joyful, hard-working, smart, talented, inclusive, understanding, fun, honest, and humble.
On Friday morning, Jim blew up balloons, and I wrote messages on my car with erasable markers. We found some streamers to bring along to help attach the balloons. We tried to explain the idea of a parade to Ben, who of course is far too young to understand.
Parades are designed to be showpieces; they highlight the very best of cities, towns, and in this case, a person. I’ve never seen a parade where the positive effort put forth by the participants wasn’t obvious. Parades celebrate the best of us. It was the absolute perfect way to provide a send off to Herb, a man who always gives the very best of himself. I couldn’t wait to see all the different ways people would show up and show off the best of themselves for Herb.
It turned out that Herb’s surprise parade was perfect. From the fire trucks to all the love pouring out of the rest of the vehicles, it was the perfect send-off for this very special man.
The Stampede Parade will not happen this year. I will dearly miss it, and all of the other Stampede dance performances we usually love to participate in. But participating in Herb’s parade has made me think.
What would it be like, I wonder, if each of us could think of our lives as a parade? We would choose our own float, and we would choose the people to march with. We would contemplate exactly what traits were the ones worthy of being on display. We would show up as the best version of ourselves. We might practice our skills and share our gifts freely with others. We could play music that reflected our souls. We would dress to highlight our strengths and not spend so much time worrying about weaknesses. We could encourage our fellow parade participants to bring their best selves and we could delight in their unique gifts and talents. There would be room for everyone. We would wave at the spectators and invite them to join in next time. We would have photo albums bursting with memories. And at the end of the parade, we would be peaceful, knowing we gave our absolute best. Just like Herb.
My inquiry for you this week is ‘How does this improve my float?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. She has particular expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to design an inspiring float.