MOMENTS OF MEANING
We said goodbye to Owen last week. Two hundred of us attended his funeral service; Owen was a man who touched the lives of many people. The Rector stood before us and apologised for the lack of heat and light in the church (she’s having the builders in). She needn’t have worried. The congregation generated its own warmth with its collective memory of a fine man. Indeed, just being there cheered me. Says a lot about a life, don’t you think? PERSONAL BOOKENDS You won’t read Owen’s obituary in the national press; he wasn’t a statesmen or a war hero, a captain of industry or a reality celeb, But he was someone who made a real difference. For me, he was the bookends of my University life – conducting my admission interview for business school, supporting me through my studies, providing my first-ever reference on the way out. It was Owen that got me started on my career.. We kept in touch over the years, a lunch now-and-then to compare notes, for me to say thank you for his help, and for him to persuade me to do him a favour. Usually a presentation or a workshop for his next group of students. It was always difficult to say ‘no’ to Owen, because his requests were never for his own direct benefit. He was usually asking for your help to help someone else. MARKETING ‘THE WORD’ That ‘enabling’ continued long into his retirement. He was on the Rector’s case the moment she arrived in the parish. In her first couple of days she received a couple of his hand-written notes with actions to help build her congregation. That continued for the next three years - strategies and suggestions, targets and tasks. He expanded the circulation of the church magazine (more advertising and clandestine distribution trips way outside the parish). He became ‘the mystery parishioner’, attending other churches to benchmark their work. You could take the man out of marketing, but you couldn’t take marketing out of the man. MAKING THE INVISIBLE VISIBLE But it was the smallest gestures in his life that , judging by the attendance last week, made the biggest impact: Coming to the front gate to compliment refuse collectors on the quality and importance of their work; pulling the car over to the side of the road to thank the council employees who were trimming the verges; acknowledging the service of local shop staff. It didn’t take much, but the impact was huge. Days were brightened, steps were given a spring. People who were otherwise invisible were recognised. That was at the core of Owen’s outlook – that everyone was making a contribution to his well-being, and his obligation was to do the same. Except it wasn’t an obligation for him; it was a source of joy. That was how Owen created meaning.
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