Sometimes I miss my Michigan and Detroit and so last night I started Googling Detroit things and thought about the inimitable Russ Gibb, who I once had as a substitute teacher in the 7th grade.
Rather than recite the lesson plan left by Mr. Westcott, our journalism teacher, Mr. Gibb perched on the edge of the desk and in the parlance of the mid-1970’s, rapped with us about life, what we wanted to do with ours, and what was possible.
I didn’t know what hit me. I never forgot it. Pretty sure I’m not the only one.
He may have explained that he had something to do with the nascent Cable TV network in Dearborn, where the school was (he’d bought up all the licenses). He could have mentioned being a legendary Detroit concert promoter who owned the Grande Ballroom, a major Detroit rock venue 1966-1972, and whose house band was the MC5.
I was too young to have experienced the Grande Ballroom, and I didn’t know much about cable. And I’d certainly had my fair share of substitute teachers (mostly awful). The reason this experience is so deeply ingrained and meaningful all these years later is because Russ Gibb made me feel like anything was possible. I just needed to figure it out.
Like most of my classmates, I was a product of a stay-at-home mom and a serial nine-to-fiver and so was conditioned to do well in school, go to college and get a good job. Starting my own business never occurred to me. But a seed was planted and though it took a while to germinate, nearly 15 years later here I am, on my own, making stuff happen, being creative for a living and helping people communicate more effectively. I figured it out. Russ Gibb was right. Anything was possible.
Russ is gone now, but his legacy lives on. Perhaps more powerfully in the students who enjoyed his constant presence at Dearborn High where he taught media for three decades but for me, a few hours was all it took.
Here’s the thing: You have this power, too. To influence and inspire. Whether you do it in the office, in a classroom, on stage—or in a book. Whatever the outlet, share your gifts with the world. Plant those seeds. They may take time to germinate, but when they do, lives may well be changed.
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