There is an arc to what what I’ve learned from Jeff, a building up of one lesson upon another and we are now entering territory where Jeff was certainly the Master, and I have only just begun as a student.
Being the Expert isn’t enough. If you watched Jeff’s life, you’d quickly realize that you only knew about all these amazing things he knew and did because he shared them so freely. He wasn’t locked in a dark room with his camera, he was capturing family moments and sharing them in calendars and custom made Christmas ornaments. He didn’t didn’t brew beer in his basement so he could sit down there and drink it alone – he gave it away. If you wanted to know the secret to baking bread with a phenomenal crust, he’d tell you all about it as he served you a slice. I know that everytime I asked a question, I was let in on “the secrets”; the tricks of the trade that help you progress and learn. Jeff would give away the things he had put in the time to learn, just to make your trip to Expert shorter.
Left to my own devices, I think I am prone to taking yesterday’s lesson – “Be the Expert” – in a selfish direction. Too often, I find myself getting smug or judgemental when it comes to these things I am learning. There is a part of me that enjoys being considered “one of the few” and is afraid that sharing would let enough other people be experts that I would soon be “one of the many”. After all, if I give away all the secrets, then waht’s to prevent everyone from being an expert.
Jeff’s life reminds me that this is, in fact, the point.
It is OK to be the Expert because that knowing or doing can connect you to other people. The hours you put in to learn can be redeemed as relational currency. Experts have the joy of making things better. Jeff’s breads made meals better. His beer made holidays better. His knowledge and skill made so many lives better.
I am struggling to find the words to capture the heart of this idea. Jeff was more than just generous, but generosity is a big part of it. He wasn’t, strictly speaking, a mentor, but it sure felt like it some times. He was more than just a resource, more than an example. He was awesome, and he loved to make your life awesome, too.
I hadn’t realized how completely Jeff had lived this out until I started thinking of all of the things that might not happen now. Who will provide matching electronic gadgets on the birthday I share with my son? Who’s going to make the custom Christmas ornaments? Who’s going to do the “bagel lecture”? Who will take the pictures? And lest we forget … who will bring the beer?
Truth be told, I don’t know. It falls to all of us; to any of us.
With great awesomeness comes great responsibility.