Making Others Interesting

by Bob Hughes on June 30, 2016

Bob Hughes · Social Trends · June 30, 2016

Pendulum in Action, something worth seeking, bright sense of humorA dear friend of mine passed away this week. He was only 56. He’d suffered cancer a couple of years ago, but got through it and was given a clean bill of health. But a month ago, a new form of this pernicious disease afflicted him, and it took him away from us far too soon.

Ed was a wonderful person – a lawyer who thought not of prestige or salary but of clients, and how he could help people. He specialized in the First Amendment, and worked on behalf of everyone for freedom of expression, especially for writers and creative types.

Most of all, however, he was the sort of person who, despite his great learning and considerable intelligence, never sought to impress you about how smart he was. He always wanted to learn from you. He always looked at you as if you were the most important person in the world. He always sought to connect, rather than to demonstrate.

That is the mark of true intelligence and feeling: realizing that others are as fully human as ourselves, and worth our attention.

We’ve all been places where we’ve met someone who scans the room looking for someone more interesting to talk to. We’ve probably done it ourselves. Ed was never like that. Ed looked at you, was genuinely interested in you and, by being interested, made you feel much more interesting than you might feel to yourself.

How rare a gift is that?

Here was a truly brilliant man – top of his class at Harvard and Harvard Law, to name but two accomplishments – who really wanted to see what made you tick, what interested you, what concerned you. He wore his learning lightly, but he took his work seriously – without being heavy-handed about it. For someone so ethical – he never discussed cases with anyone outside of his firm, never gossiped about any clients who were famous – he had a bright sense of humor and a delicacy about daily living that inspired everyone around him.

I wish I were as good a person as he was. I’m not. But with him, I felt that I was better, and I felt that I was living up to my potential. Ed thought so and that helped me think so. He made me feel that I was part of something greater, just by speaking with him. He made me into a community by treating me as an equal.

I miss him, but I hope to honor him by taking some steps to be like him, in accepting the wisdom of others through daily interactions as something worth seeking.

Farewell, Ed.

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