Grateful For the Chance to Lead, to Celebrate, and to Learn

Ottawa Sign

The past few days have been a bit of a blur, a lot of fun, but still kind of blurry. 

Thursday morning I flew to Winnipeg to give a keynote Friday morning. I spoke to a group of about 30 people on the importance of finding your “why” and the “why” of others when trying to convince them to make a change. In this case, I was speaking about trying to sell the idea of open educational practices at their respective institutions. I am a leader in this area in Canada and it is a privilege to have opportunities to share what I’ve learned from others and through my own experiences.

Right after my talk, I quickly grabbed a cab to the airport and caught a flight to Ottawa to meet up with my wife and daughter. The University of Saskatchewan women’s basketball team was in the final 8 national championships and were ranked number 1 going in. I missed their quarter final victory Thursday night, but arrived in time on Friday to go straight to the party for the players, families, and fans who made the trip.

On Saturday we went to the Canadian War Museum. Time flew by as we explored all of the exhibits. It was sobering, thought-provoking, and educational. There were many points where I saw pictures of men and women heading off to war and was left wondering who they were and whether they came home safely. I saw a car that had been Adolf Hitler’s, that he had actually ridden in for parades, and the only word to describe that experience, knowing that he’d been in that car, is haunting. Members of the Canadian Armed Forces never have to pay for admission to the museum and there were several there on the day we went.  To them I am very grateful and I hope that they all live long and healthy lives.

Saturday night the basketball team won the semi-finals and my daughter’s excitement just grew. I don’t think she ever had any doubt that they would reach that point, and was certain they’d win the national championship.

On Sunday we visited the National Gallery of Canada which was filled with magnificent works of art from around the world and spanning almost a millennium. And then it was off to watch the Huskies in the final game.

We took our seats right behind their bench, my daughter in her “super-fan” regalia, including a green cape signed by one of the players. With a few minutes left until game time, an event organizer approached us and invited her down to stand with the players during the national anthem, along with some other young fans from both teams.

The Huskies won by 18

After the initial celebrating, medals were handed out and the team was given the championship banner and trophy. Pictures were taken of the entire team, coaches, and support staff, and then one of the assistant coaches, followed by the head coach, Lisa Thomaidis, turned towards us and invited my daughter down to the court to be in the picture with them. After that came pictures of my daughter with several players and coaches, and she was repeatedly asked if she was coming to the party later that evening. 

At the party were more pictures, dancing with the team, and then near the end all of the acknowledgements the Coach Thomaidis was making, she asked if she’d missed anyone, and a player pointed toward my daughter and Coach said, “of course”, put an arm around her and talked about the girls, like my daughter, who could be the future of the team.

This may give you a pretty good glimpse of this team and the coaches, but it seems that my opinion of them is not unique. We met people at the games whose team had already been knocked out of the tournament, but they were there to cheer on the Huskies because of what a great coach Thomaidis is and how kind and generous the players have been when they’ve encountered them at other tournaments. 

Finally, on Monday, we went to Parliament Hill and sat in the House of Commons during question period listening as MPs from the five parties represented in Parliament debated the economy and  keeping Canadians safe from Covid-19. The Speaker at one point, politely, chastised the MPs when they began yelling over each other instead of letting the member with permission to speak be heard. My daughter listened intently for almost an hour.  She’s 11.

As you read this, I may be on an airplane heading home and will be returning to work. Yes, the past few days have been a blur, but I am grateful for every minute of it. I’m grateful for the opportunity to lead and for the people who were their to listen. I’m grateful for those whose stories were told in the Canadian War Museum and for those members who were there that day, and those they serve with. I’m grateful for the victory those hard working, kind, and generous women earned on the court, and the way they welcomed my daughter into all of their celebrations. I’m grateful for all of it and the joy I’m taking home with me.

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