I find myself today in the midst of an epiphany of great humility. After a couple hours of rewarding discussion with a group of colleagues, I reflected back on what was said, what was implied, and my part in it all:
I'm a taker. I gain so much more than what I contribute in return. For instance, yesterday afternoon I donated red blood cells by plasmaphoresis (what a cool experience and so interesting to watch it all happen up close). I thought I was just going to donate the blood, because for one reason or another, I somehow believe that's the right thing to do. But without a second thought, I accepted in addition to the food, a brand new shirt, a new hat, free drinks at an improv, and two movie passes. All for 503ml of red cells. To me, that just no longer feels like donation.
Today a friend told a story about calling one of his elementary school teachers to thank him - that he was on his way to becoming an M.D./PhD spinal surgeon, and it was that teacher's guidance so long ago that allowed him to be where he is today.
I am ashamed that I am not as appreciative as this young man, as I should be. I had realized before, but it didn't shatter my world until today that I am in extreme debt to those around me my whole life. I too have had several teachers who have been so incredibly influential in my life, and hadn't really understood their full impact till recently. They've never been thanked like they deserve. Others just as much - I disagree with my parents on a lot of things, including those as basic as what's right and wrong, but they've allowed me to forge my own path, to develop better understanding, and have overseen my maturation as an individual in ways I've never let on to them.
I am only now starting to realize how important exchanging knowledge with peers is, and how dependent I am on them, and how grateful I am to them. I have so much to learn from them - a lifetime of experience and knowledge from each one! People have so much to offer each other in ways of which they are unaware. But for those of us with that awareness, we have an obligation to share that knowledge with others; if not for their sake, then for the knowledge and ideas and opinions and insight themselves! This is the whole premise of education - there is a set of knowable things out there that needs to be retained. So those with the power that the knowledge bestows upon them must therefore pass it on to others - disciples, students - so that knowledge may endure history.
I'm realizing that I have no profound original thought to exchange for the vast, towering mountains of what I learn from others. Perhaps I have nothing personal to offer, but I can at least share some Nietzsche, Farmer, Sachs, Tocqueville, Buddha, Petrella, Christ, Stolt or Gildenlow with them instead.
And my sincere humble gratitude because it's such a privilege to know.