How a “bland” balloon lifts us all
Today is the 13th anniversary of the most horrific international experience many of us have ever experienced and professionally a challenge I hope never to repeat. Friday September 5, 2014 was my third opportunity to provide the opening keynote for the Idaho Housing and Finance Association’s Annual Employee Appreciation day. This year could not have been more perfect but thirteen years ago it was an entirely different story.
Our first event was scheduled to begin just moments after the second plane hit the Twin Towers. None of us knew the horrific gravity of the event at that moment. We were all preparing for a special day of celebration and hadn’t watched the news. What little we had heard sounded more like an accident than an attack. We decided to go ahead.
This year I wanted a theme that reflected on how our lives had changed since that terrible day and how resilience has been part of our countries DNA since its inception. The inspiration came from of all places a hot air balloon.
Every year we have the Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic. This year there were 39 gorgeous balloons and one that at first glimpse was really kind of dull. Most were brightly colored, imaginatively designed and this one was tan. It reminded me of our family’s first station wagon as it lay lifeless on the ground. I shot this short video as they began to breathe life into this beige behemoth and it was huge.
Dwarfing others as it slowly inflated its unique shape was gradually revealed. It was unlike any other. Not the traditional dimensions of a balloon large toward the top and tapering to a small gondola below this balloon was in the shape of a bell, the Liberty Bell.
The unique design alone conveyed an important message. Large at the bottom conveying a strong foundation and uniform in color representing the equality of contribution. While videotaping the balloons inflation I noticed a burn in the fabric. Symbolic of the many “heated issues” unavoidable in the creation of a union (like the fabric of this balloon) held together by a consistent set of principles.
Since I was kicking off a celebratory day for the employees I thought freedom would be a great theme and so I decided to read the Declaration of Independence for ideas.
It has been many decades since I have studied the Declaration of Independence. I did not know there were more than 90 versions submitted by the individual colonies before the one finally settled upon. I decided to focus on just one line. I have used a version of this phrase for my entire career but had no idea the original understanding came from the constitution.
“…All experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”*
I hope watching this symbol of freedom reminds each of us that change seldom happens without sacrifice. We have to be willing to endure more than we can imagine. Do more than we believe possible and be emboldened by a belief in the greater good.
We are by nature comforted by consistency but it is in those moments that test our resolve that we are released from our fears.
Like these beautiful balloons we rise through contrast, contradictions and even conflict. Like the heat that lifts the balloon it is the passionate energy within ourselves that lifts us.
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
~Neale Donald Walsch
*This quote is taken from the first line of the indictment component of the Declaration of Independence as described