Significant Moments in 2008

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Feb 21, 2009

"There are only 3 colors, 10 digits, and 7 notes; it's what we do with them that's important." 
John Rohn

Life moves fast. Too fast. And with each passing year the distance between January and December keeps shrinking. 2009 is already well established in our minds and we hardly ever make the mistake of writing "2008." 

But as 2008 drifts farther and farther from memory, we don't want to forget the lessons we learned from the significant moments in the past year. 

In a recent administrative retreat, Chick, one of the members of our VFCC leadership team, asked this important question, "What significant moments happened to you in 2008?" 

To give us time to think and also to illustrate what he was asking, he described some of his own highlights. In 2008, a daughter and son-in-law brought a new grandchild into the Coles family; two of his sons changed jobs and one of them is expecting another grandchild. 2008 was also the year he finished his doctorate. 

We then went around the table with that question. Jenny moved from the classroom to our administrative team; she and her husband are starting a new church in Phoenixville; she travelled with a group of students to Laos. Perhaps the most traumatic event occurred when her youngest son, Dylan, almost drowned. 

Dan's daughter became engaged causing him to ponder what it will mean to be a father-in-law and, eventually, a grandfather. With both a twinkle in his eye and a measure of chagrin he exclaimed, "I'm too young to be a grandfather." 

Phil described the career challenges of a close family member and the news we were all glad to review...that the Phillies had won the World Series. "That win will encourage the greater Philadelphia area for the next 20 years," he said. 

As I reflected back on 2008 two significant family deaths marked the year as significant. In March, Evie's sister died after numerous health challenges and in September, my youngest brother died after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Although none of our parents are living, these were the first of our siblings to pass on. 

Several times Chick repeated, "What a difference a year makes." He further illustrated that reality by recent news of several business leaders. The Associated Press announced on January 6 that German billionaire Adolf Merkle "took his own life that week -- becoming the latest high-profile casualty of a global economic crisis that has claimed the lives of executives in Europe and the U.S." Merkle, they report, was a respected businessman, married, and father of four children. His last act was to jump in front of a train travelling through southern Germany. 

The AP reported that "Merkle's death appears to be at least the third comparable suicide in less than four months...In September, Kirk Stephenson - chief operating officer of the private equity house Olivant - jumped in front of a train at a rail station west of London. The 47 year old husband and father of a young son stepped onto the tracks, was struck and killed." 

The third example from the story occurred in New York two days before Christmas. "Rene-Thierry Magon da la Villehuchet was found dead at his desk, both wrists slashed and (a) bottle of pills nearby after his fortune and the money of his loved ones vanished along with his clients when he lost $4.4 billion invested with Bernard Madoff." 

Chick referenced the wisdom of Dr. John D. Lucas who said these men may have "considered themselves to be worth as human beings what they were worth at the bank." 

You may want to ask yourself the question Chick asked us, "What significant moments happened to you in 2008?" Those moments may have been seismic or small but how did they change your life? Looking back will always enhance our view forward. 

Thank you, Chick, for giving us something significant to think about. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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