York Minster (cathedral) in York, England was begun in 1220 and consecrated in 1472; 252 years of vision, architectural mastery, stone masonry and stained glass design was birthed across three centuries. Those who started the building project on a former Norman site had no hope of seeing or worshipping in the completed Gothic marvel of today.
A Haudenosaunee chief is called a Hoyaneh, which means “Caretaker of the Peace.” As they make the critical leadership decisions for and with their people, they peer through the lens of seven generations. If we accept the average of 25 years for a generation, that’s just under 200 years. When was the last time you considered how your choices today would affect those who come after you – a long, long time after you?
Medieval leaders who designed a new home for northern England worshippers were caretakers for those about ten generations after them – and today, almost 600 years after completion; another 22 generations. Visionaries, daring, believers, persistent, trail blazers, assured, committed, caring, unselfish, purposeful, timeless, dedicated, donors, and artists are but a few words that come to mind.
Think of the visual mess for centuries in the center of a city as a partially constructed building rose from the ground. Consider the noise and the dirt and the building materials all around. Ponder the children who skipped by, watching the stone walls creep higher each year; then as young newlyweds walking nearby as they shopped; and finally as their eyes dimmed, sighing as they recognized they would die before seeing the light stream through crystals of glass onto worshippers – yet smiling, knowing that their great grandchildren just might catch the first glimpse. Jobs were provided, hope was inspired, and dreams endured that one day, everyone could stand together in a magnificent home of worship.
We’re starting a new year, and you will make many choices over the next twelve months. Some will be simple like what to eat tonight. Yet, consistent choices of what you ingest will affect your long-term health, how much you contribute to health care costs rising, whether others have to care for you at some point, and how long you live – choices that can have an impulsive selfish component or be a measured decision; taking others into account. At work, you may be charged with creating the new graphic design for your company’s logo and consider it just the first of many tasks or projects for the year. Yet, that visual representation expresses the hopes and dreams of your company today, which very well may still be in existence two centuries from now. What will you create that still speaks to people decades from now? At home, you may be deciding whether to have another child. What hopes do you have for how your parenting of the gifts that child receives may positively impact the world, beyond adding the joy of another life to share inside your family?
Let’s challenge ourselves this year. Let’s be daring, with dreams and actions so bold that we may never see them come to fruition in our lifetime, safe in the knowledge that our job is to start them and engage others. Let’s be so mindful of our choices that we do not make them only from a selfish place of what we want to get out of life but choose to give to those whom we will never know, long after us. Let’s make the sacrifices now that allow others to live dreams of deep fulfillment like the Greatest Generation did for so many living today. Let’s be the people and leaders whom our successors look back to and marvel at how much we dared and how deeply we cared.
Happy New Year!
 The Role of Chief, http://www.pbs.org/warrior/content/timeline/opendoor/roleOfChief.html, Retrieved Dec. 31, 2016