I have spent a lot of time thinking about who and what has made me the person that I am today. This is a pretty heavy question. However, from time to time, I have had some of those “ah-ha!” moments and my thinking has become clearer and more focused. In the end, I believe that being around people who look at life positively, with optimism and hope has helped me to find an answer to this question.
This past week has been quite an uplifting time for me and Kathy. My sister and mother staged a celebratory gathering of family and special friends to recognize my NDSU research award and our 40th wedding anniversary; the university administration staged a celebratory faculty excellence ceremony to present the top faculty awards for 2014; and Fargo staged a terrific 10th anniversary marathon in which I achieved a personal goal of running the half marathon in under two hours (1 hour 58 minutes and 6 seconds). That’s a lot of good fortune–maybe too much for one person at a time. Why did these things happen as they did?
The gathering of family and friends occurred because for nearly 62 years, I have given and received unconditional love from my family. We have a special relationship and I draw upon their love and strength and they draw upon mine. Their love is genuine and they keep the focus on the good things in life, choosing to downplay the negative.
The university event occurred because my peers recognized me as one of the university’s leading researchers. NDSU is one of the top 100 research institutions in the United States and is classified as having “high research activity.” As one of about 550 faculty, being singled out for my work was truly uplifting. I was so pleased to share this award with the faculty in my college of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences as I am only the second faculty member to receive this award in its history. This award demonstrates that the research we undertake in our college is valued and contributes to the reputation of the university. This also served as an affirmation that my research with vulnerable groups–particularly New and Native Americans–is worthy of recognition. Humility is my response to award winning because so many others contribute along the way. But, I was pleased for the younger faculty in my department because they know they inspire me every day to do more and better research.
The marathon was something positive for me. There are so many people, things, and circumstances you cannot control or even influence in life. Thus, it seems that every once in awhile you should do something where you set a goal and work toward that goal, knowing that in the end it will be you who makes it happen. You will be responsible for achieving or failing to achieve. I believe that it was good for me to be training for the half marathon while running for endorsement to be an International Director in Lions Clubs International. The two races are similar in many ways: you set goals, you develop a plan, you do everything you can to prepare for the event, you enable people to help you as they are able, and then you have to deliver. But, even running a half marathon was not done alone–I had a trainer, a supportive spouse and family, encouraging friends, and physical gifts that I have learned not to take for granted.
In contrast, the upcoming election is out of my hands and in the hands of the Lions of Multiple District 5. In a few short weeks, the endorsement of an international director candidate will be history. I have done my best to provide the Lions of MD5 with reasons why I will be an effective leader for our organization. I have demonstrated my commitment to service on a personal and broader level. Lions from across the Multiple District have rallied to support me and have provided more than “wind beneath my wings.” These Lions have demonstrated the true meaning of friendship over and over again. I am so fortunate that I have had the opportunity to form such deep friendships at this stage in my life.
In the end, I am optimistic and positive about the future of Lionism and my place in that future. I am thankful every day for the wonderful opportunities I have had to be involved in the lives of my family, my colleagues, and my friends. You all have made me who I am and I thank you.
–Lion Robert Littlefield