The death of singer Whitney Houston and the outpouring of sadness remind us all how one life can touch so many people and how the influence of fame, power and riches can become so very destructive. From most accounts the girl with the golden voice rose from singing in her church choir to the top of the female pop star charts in the 1980’s and early 90’s before falling into a destructive period of excessive use of drugs and alcohol after her marriage to singer Bobby Brown. Sadly her story is all too familiar as so many with so much to offer have traveled similar paths.
Most of us will never be on the world stage like Ms. Houston, but the impact our actions have on those around us is no less significant. How we live our lives, the actions we take, decisions we make and associations we embrace can ripple through society having an affect on those around us.
Let me offer an example. Recently I was speaking with an individual who went to school with my son over 20 years ago about the recent United Way campaign. This young man and my son worked part-time at a local major business, where a manager there encouraged them to give to the United Way.
The manager impressed the importance of giving to those in need, of putting others before self, of being part of the larger community, and helping his company be a leader that cares about members of the community by encouraging modest contributions by all staff members.
I was always impressed that my son realized that important lesson on his own, hopefully reinforcing what he had already learned at home, through the example of his parents. That manager touched more than just those two lives for the betterment of our community, he ultimately touched thousands who will never know the impact of his actions as they share his lesson with those they will influence in their lives. Sadly, that manager has moved away and today that business which at one time was very active in community affairs, refuses to even allow the United Way the opportunity to conduct an employee campaign. Today the business donates nothing to the campaign. To me, that seems a stark contrast between the different actions of two people in exactly the same position, through their ability to affect attitudes and actions of others.
We all have personal examples of people who have touched our lives for good as well as those who left us with a negative impression, or no impression at all. In the end regardless of what we’ve received from others we need to recognize that it’s what we give to others that is most important. How we treat people, how we pass along positive values, or when we take just a moment to assist someone with a simple courtesy, we have the opportunity to make an impression.
Ms. Houston’s life will become an open book in the days and month’s ahead as the media will look to uncover all aspects of her life. One has to wonder how such a natural talent can be turned upside down sinking so tragically. Why is it that fame, fortune, talent, health, good looks, and so many other advantages she enjoyed weren’t enough to satisfy her? We may never know how tormented she was in life or what pushed her life toward destructive behavior.
At the same time, we’ve seen so many similarly talented individuals end up the same way with so much to offer while their lives seem to self destruct before our vary eyes. The only conclusion I can reach is that as a society we must help keep these folks grounded by not putting them on high pedestals so far removed from the life of average citizens. These so called “super stars” must also do their part to keep giving back and remain connected to the roots of their community.
Dan Alexander is publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.