9/11 brings back haunting memories. Having buried by brother and mother almost back-to-back just before 9/11, losing all three of my life-long mentors over the passing years, and recently burying my father and step-mother, death to me is no longer a stranger. My grasp of our human fragility stems from watching the Twin Towers fall. It has been heightened by my first-person experiences in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Haiti after the Tsunami and earthquake - where half a million perished. I know all too well that we are but temporary beings.
I preserve the legacy of my loved ones, brother Rick and Mom, Dad and his wife Luan, those who died on 9/11, and those who taught me the world, Cheddi Jagan, Paul Moore and Betty Millard, by writing about them. Subconsciously, I also preserve my own thoughts and feelings the same way. My Earth Creed from high school and the organization I co-founded in the 1980's to fight religious extremism have as much relevance today as then. Although I made it to Bellevue Hospital to volunteer on 9/11, the fact that not one survivor came up the FDR shocked me beyond the ability to write.
9/11 is a thoughtful day. Having recently turned 51, I have reached the halfway mark in life. As fast as the first half has vanished, I am convinced the second half will disappear in the twinkling of an eye. I am torn between wanting to spend quality time with my son Mathew and partner John Lee, my nieces and nephews, my good friends, and our dog. My grandmother lived to be 102. With human life being extended daily, but with the female longevity advantage, I use this fine age as my own age goal.
I have overcome two life-threatening ailments in the first half of my life and defied death on four occasions - all in Haiti. The experience of thinking New York City is under attack or being chased up a mountain by an angry mob puts life in perspective.
One thing 9/11 and other brushed with death have taught me is that coming from a family - any family - is important. Our roots connect us to the planet, not so much genealogy as connecting goodness. If your family were abominable or you did not know them, then create your own family. One new friendship of mine is with Peter Yarrow, who I admire greatly. My own family has notable respectability, but it also included ship captains of slave ships. My post-9/11 family includes two whose genetics trace back to China, not England. I never would have guessed that ten years ago.
My mother's father, Dudley Alleman, is the boy sitting in the middle.
Is the bottle half full or half empty? What do any of us wish to accomplish with our lives? Am I trying to accomplish too much or too little with my own life? I would argue too little, and it secretly annoys me. No matter how hard I excel, I cannot achieve in a day, a week, or a month my goals and objectives. Like many others, with literally thousands of friends and acquaintances around the world, addressing my e-mail alone is a challenge. If I have fewer than 2,000 unread "important" e-mails in my In-Box, it is an accomplishment.
Two years ago, approaching my fiftieth birthday, I expressed feeling incomplete. I wrote, "Part of me - my soul? - is still missing. In secular terms, I think I am not yet in touch with the best way to serve humanity. In theological terms, I have yet to find God's full plan for my life."
Writing in Haiti, after the earthquake, in front of typical Haitian sign.
I no longer feel that way and have filled my cup to the brim and beyond. With the estate of my mother in 2001, I expanded Orphans International Worldwide (OIWW) which we began in 1999. With the estate of my father, I am endowing the James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation (Foundation) to fund the lifework of "Luce Leaders," active in advancing humanity anywhere in the world. 9/11 helped me to settle into a simpler and more serene world view: Doing Good and Feeling Good™.
My new vehicle, The Jim Luce Stewardship Report, allows me to publish anything, drawing on the theme of Connecting Goodness. We have already covered 1,000 stories on thought leaders and global citizens. I want the JLSR to be the ultimate depository on all ways to develop humanity positively. I am particularly pleased with the Luce Index™ rating thought leaders, organizations, books - and soon multi-national corporations. Our 2011 editorial calendar is immense. After 9/11, we must focus on our common goodness, not our differences. Yet we must work collectively to eradicate the fundamentalist mindset of extremism.
The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation will focus on funding Luce Leaders, working on issues related to the Arts, G.L.B.T. (Estate of Betty Millard), HIV & AIDS, Housing (estate of Stanford L. Luce), Orphans (estate of Frances D. Alleman-Luce), and Women.
To remain solvent and to continue an interesting journey, I am launching a consulting practice this fall, "Jim Luce & Associates," focused on "Global Challenges. Global Solutions." My colleagues and I will deal with consultation related to international development, post-disaster housing, communications, public relations, non-governmental organizations, philanthropy, international affairs, and human rights. We have a dozen pro bono institutional clients already lined up, and our client roster will be confidential.
At the mid-point of my life, I kook back at those who have helped me. Hank Luce was not so much my mentor as an enormous benefactor, the largest in my life, in fact. I learned from Hank many lessons that I apply to living, including the need to operate from a strong position. Not keeping that principle close to heart has hurt me more than once. From former Episcopal Bishop Paul Moore I learned how best to help the most unfortunate among us, from social activist Betty Millard how to live and operate humbly with resources, and from Cheddi Jagan, former president of Guyana, how to network for social change.
This fall I will make my 24th pilgrimage to Haiti since 1999. As 24 is my favorite number, I find it auspicious that on this trip I plan to stay. I will reverse my seven weeks here and one week there cycle, and remain there seven of eight weeks through 2012. Our projects have grown in Haiti so large I need to oversee them personally. With full Internet connectivity, I will be quite okay Connecting Goodness. 9/11 reaffirmed my need to get involved and give back, and the earthquake of January 12 in Haiti continued my resolve.
I will see my son Matt and partner John every two months, and I dream of Matt spending next summer with me in Haiti where he can learn Creole and fall in love with the culture, as I did at his age in Germany. John will join me there in 2012. I believe our home in Leogane will become the meeting place for the international and Haitian communities to connect, breaking bread and sharing a glass. Building global bridges is the best way for me to spend the beginning of the second half of my life.
I left my job in the World Financial Center days before 9/11. I could have been in the midst of it. I was spared. When my life does end -- in another twinkling of an eye -- I will not blink because I will have done exactly what I have chosen to do with my life: Doing Good and Feeling Good. Let us celebrate 9/11 as the time when our world came together to combat ignorance and extremism and focus on connecting goodness. In memory of those who perished.
Edited by Linda Stillman, Ph.D.
Other Personal Essays by Jim Luce:
Jim Luce on Remembering (The Stewardship Report)