Posted by: MC | August 26, 2013

“He knows everyone in business.”

Feet on the street - Portland - 8-22-13  mmc

Every word was about kindness, about humility, or generosity of the most precious kind:  of time and attention, of friendship and guidance, of wisdom.  Last Thursday night, a man well into his 80’s retired … again.  This time from a talent and career management firm called Right Management.

I still don’t know enough about this man, Jack Stowell.  My friend, Terry OConnor said, “Come as my guest.  Jack wants to meet you.”  He said, “Jack knows and has the respect of everyone who is successful in business in Portland.  He’s one of the kindest men you’ll ever meet.”

This is what I know now.

In almost jarring contrast to icons like Donald Trump and the Koch brothers, this man Jack Stowell has given his life to the wellbeing of human community.  He’s done it through building his own businesses and supporting the visionary business practice of other people.  This may come as no surprise to those of you who spend lots of your life in these realms – or maybe it will.  For me it was yet another powerful course correction when it comes to the stereotypes my mind can engage as defaults when I hear sentences like “Jack knows everyone who is successful in business in Portland.”

Integrity doesn’t spring to mind when I hear those words – and that, like any bias structure – is a limitation that can keep me from listening, learning, and recognizing how very many people across all circumstances are truly ready, willing and already quite engaged in making changes in support of those things we prize most in this country – things like life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness – things like freedom, dignity, fairness, voice in democracy, and work that makes the life (listed first) possible.  Read those last five again.  They were particularly highlighted this week with the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech and each was a high priority for Jack Stowell across his career. 

My friend Terry wasn’t kidding.  This man is surely well known and well-loved among business leaders throughout the region, across the country and now internationally.  But, he keeps it quiet.  Not with any particular effort, but because it doesn’t serve his vocation to do otherwise.

Maybe you’ll have the opportunity to meet this man, to shake his warm and welcoming hand, to look into the sparkle of his entirely sincere eyes – guarantees of the presence right there in his open and smiling face.  Maybe you’ll meet someone else like him – a leader in business who has lived every one of her or his adult decades devoted to your flourishing within a cared-for and flourishing world.

It’s something to experience.  It’s a tradition upon which each of stands every day – and it’s one we sorely need to nurture in this weary world.  The good news is that Jack is an Elder – an Elder who is modeling to all of us younger than he (and that’s a lot of us) how to become Elders – how to be present and wise – how to be generous with what we know, with what we’ve learned, with how integrity looks and can be passed forward.

Part of the mix is play and humor – and that was in no short supply.  Inspirited by the presence and model of Jack, four of us made our way out to the streets of Portland headed back to our homes – to our lives.  We carried, fun alongside the mandate that comes with the privilege of having jobs and education – the mandate of clear, thoughtful and finally loving leadership.  Yep.  Loving.  (I won’t stop to defend that, here.  I’ll leave it for all of us to consider for whether it’s true or not – whether we want our lives to be about that or not.)

And we left with play — in this case the irony, perhaps even the poetry, of footwear.  This I offer too with inadequate elaboration or defense – only to explain this week’s photo which seems to beg some kind of comment.

And that’s the point.  So many words go into defining what “a good person” – what a good business or family or community or government or … well … you name it — is or ought to be.  In the end, it all boils down not to talk, but to action and interaction.  Jack Stowell hasn’t needed or wanted lots of words about his values and work – he lets the poetry of his life and its action speak those things.  With that he invites deep and active integrity from all of us.

What luck.

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