Dear Inner Circle,

At the front door this morning, a woman stopped me and asked, “Have you got time to speak with me?” Unthinkingly, I opened my eyes wide and said, “I wouldn’t say I have time but let’s sit here and talk for a bit.” Soon I’d forgotten that people were waiting for me because the beautiful face locked with mine. She knew she had my attention and she poured out something that she said she’d been hanging onto for some time. “I want to thank you for loving us. I saw you on the tele just recently and I just knew I had to find you and thank you for loving us. You probably don’t think we’re religious but lots of us pray for you. We think of you as our father. I think of you as “Dad”. Tell me that you’re doing OK because if you need anything, I have friends and we’ll do anything to protect you and help you.” Imagine if I’d have missed this moment by being too busy! What an amazing outpouring of love and what a gush of affection. I thanked her for the love and said, “You are a wonderful lady”. She opened her eyes wide and said, “Oh, I wouldn’t say I was a lady”.

An extraordinary success story sat in my office this week. He was dux of his various schools and prefect or captain. He’d won various university medals. He has studied in the best schools around the world and would be considered a world leader in his field. There ought to be a stronger word than “focus” for the manner in which this person sets goals and then achieves them, no matter the cost of the commitment. It was an honour and inspiring for me to sit with such towering intellect. He came to see me because, “I don’t know who I am” and “everything seems so empty and a waste.” I was not shocked. The only source of information about ourselves comes from others. None of us invented anything about ourselves. We wouldn’t even have the power of speech if we weren’t first spoken to by someone else. If you only relate to competitors, it is hardly surprising that you know not much about yourself. The self is formed in relationships. We need nutters in our lives. We need odd balls and eccentric people as much as we need role models. We are formed in community. Success is good but we need the odd failure to teach us that relationships are essentially not about competing. I made some weird recommendations to this brilliant man that I’m pretty sure he will ignore but he may loosen up a bit and expand his range of relationships.

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