Regardless of geography, ethnicity, economic status, or level of education, all human beings are united by a desire to matter. We are social creatures. We want to be respected and acknowledged for the contributions that we make and the dreams that we carry. The great tragedy is when an individual (or group of individuals) feels invisible.
Conscious exclusion and institutional prejudice cripple human promise. But what of quieter biases that comprise indifference and neglect? What about the fact that each of us ignores most of the people we pass on the street each and every day. Think of an elevator -- everyone staring forward -- what happens when we stop looking each other in the eye?
There is a vital tie that binds us to our past, directs us to the future, and links us to each other. Other people give us the courage and capacity to act. We don't always give credit, but they contribute to our successes -- from the people who look after our kids to the scientists and inventors who pioneered modern life to the poets who give shape to our stories and make us feel a little less alone. At it's most fundamental level, these links are the essence and driver of collaboration.
Collaboration is more than just a catch-phrase. It's a prod towards humility, kindness, and gratitude. It's the key to richness -- a life worth living. Inspired by my fellows in the Aspen Global Leadership Network, I used the stage at this year's Aspen Action Forum to commit a small act of collaboration. It involved the sharing of verse, including, "A Day in Salamanca" by the nearly-forgotten poet Radcliffe Squires, as a reminder of how powerful one voice can be and how great (and universal) the loss when we stop listening for the music of others.
I hope you'll take a moment to admit Squires' beautiful poem into your day.