Who are the channel markers in your life?
Over the years I’ve had several “channel markers” of the human kind. Like keeping an eye on buoys to steer your boat safely, I watch how these people conduct some aspect of their lives that sets a standard I want to meet. Then I steer myself according to what I see in them.
Sometimes the standard is written down, and my channel markers excel at meeting it. When raising guinea pigs, we specialized in a couple of particular breeds and colors. Our animals eventually became quite good, according to the written Standard of Perfection. But two or three breeders were justly known as the finest in the U.S. for what we raised. When given the chance, I’d watch what these breeders were showing, and use them as channel markers for my own efforts. Was the color on my animals rich enough? Could I improve the body shape? Just by doing what they did, these folks inspired me to do better.
Sometimes the standard is less clear. About 10 years ago I worked for a consultancy that applied the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) to organizations. One of my co-workers had been involved in this work for many years. A Black woman, Carol approached many DEI issues with a vigor and mode of thought that never would have occurred to me. I didn’t always agree with her, but I could see how much more she knew and had experienced. So, as I did my own internal work on DEI, I’d look over to see what she was doing, how she thought about this or that, and (I hope) my own sensitivity grew.
The funny thing about my channel markers is they’re not necessarily my best friends. In some cases they’re not even alive. One of my go-to channel markers is a French nun who died some 125 years ago. If not for her penetrating autobiography, St. Thérèse of Lisieux would have been lost to history. Between that book, her letters, her last conversations, and even her poetry, she detailed a way of spirituality that I’ve drawn wisdom from for years.
Bottom line, I see something in these people that I need in my life, so I keep an eye out.
What about you? Who are your channel markers? How does keeping an eye on them guide you? Do they know they serve this role for you?