Tuesday, May 30, 2017

It's people who matter and how we interact with them

This week's Independent News & Media Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
Occasionally we have a few polite words to say to each other, inconsequential stuff but always measured. He's an architect by trade and I imagine a good one. Last week we were chatting about this and that. 

We both agreed that expertise, knowledge, skill, intelligence are important but human relations, people interacting with one another is vital in the conduct of any business. We can be experts in our fields but if we can't handle interpersonal skills then the job in hand is going to be made far more difficult.

So much in our lives is personal. When people impress us, when we are inspired by people, it makes us reach out to new heights.

Certainly the big 'moments' in my life have not been events or things but rather meeting people and being influenced by them.

Those of us who have been fortunate enough to have been blessed with good and kind parents always treasure our mums and dads. The older we get the more we realise their greatness.

Youngsters have their fans, whether pop stars or footballers. And industry makes billions on the 'fan-phenomenon'. It's the way of the world.

I remember having two 'heroes', Harold Wilson and Lester Piggott. Yes, they were famous people but it was the quirky things they did that impressed me. 

The story goes that when Harold Wilson was in school, writing an essay about what he would like to be when he grew up, he went up to the teacher and asked what number on Downing Street did the Chancellor of the Exchequer live. 

The teacher told him number 11 and then asked him why would he not like to be prime minister. No he wanted to be chancellor. Back in his seat, a few minutes later, he put his hand up and asked in what number the prime minister lived.

Rumour has it that Piggott on winning his first Epsom Derby instead of going off partying went back to his father's house and cut the lawn.

Youngster Wilson comes across as an interesting child and Piggott has always been for me someone who was 'different'. People leave their mark on us, even from afar.

I remember as a 10-year-old boy having a great teacher in school. I can still see him at the top of the class. And he was such a lovely person. Teachers are in a special position to influence us. 

Gosh, I'm wondering what sort of mark I left on my students? I hope I was kind.

This Thursday, June 1 is the anniversary of the death of a Dominican. Paul Hynes died on June 1, 1985. He was 51 when he died. He was prior in St Mary's Priory in Tallaght when I went there as a young man in 1969. He was dynamic, full of ideas and simply an amazing person. 

He has left an indelible mark on me. When people ask me why I joined the Dominicans I stumble about looking for words but I gather myself together and then say I have met Dominicans who greatly impressed me and have probably stayed because of their influence on me.

So much of our lives is greatly influenced and ordered by the people we meet. That can be for good or bad. Unfortunately, there are times when that influence leads to terrible human misery. But when it works for the good, there is little in this world like it. 

In these days it's heartening to be reminded of the 19th century American philosopher Henry David Thoreau, who wrote: "Goodness is the only investment that never fails."

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