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When inspired, let them know

Inspire. The word means “to breathe life into.” For me, inspiration comes in moments where a concept or a person exceeds expectation. In those moments, I am raised up.

It happened today when I read in the morning paper that the besieged leader of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, shaped his speeches to NATO countries with observations about their specific national experience, offering each country “a tailored emotional punch.”

He evoked Martin Luther King Jr. when he spoke to the U.S. Congress and reminded us that as a nation we must always be “a leader of peace.”

He cast his request for assistance to Germany in the metaphorical context of “tear down this wall.”

When he spoke to the Canadian Parliament, he talked about protecting Canadian children from experiencing the horrific bombing that Ukrainian children are enduring.

I am inspired by the words and approaches of this Ukrainian president who has minimal experience in governing and none in managing a brutal, unprovoked invasion. He has risen to the moment. He models for all of us.

Inspiration comes in many forms. I feel it in conversations with my age peers, older adults battling a grim cancer diagnosis or a debilitating disease, including my own husband; people who refer to their journey with thoughtful insight or wise-cracking humor. On the occasions I find myself in a hospital or clinic setting I am inspired by the skill of the health care professionals providing treatment and the resilience of the patients receiving their care.

When asked, “What inspires you personally?” responses might include physical challenges, parents’ experiences, the consoling words of friends. For some of us it can be as basic as meeting deadlines or breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.

Inspirational breathing came in handy for me this week when I was in a pharmacy setting trying to fill three new prescriptions for my husband. A prior authorization was needed, and I did not have it. It was a Sunday, and getting that approval in a timely fashion was unlikely. The quoted cost took my breath away. Hence the necessity of the deep breathing exercise.

That was when the CVS Pharmacy employee holding my prescriptions stepped in with the best customer service I have ever experienced. Fingers clicking away on her computer keyboard, she said, “Let me see if I can find a way to discount this.” It took her a while, and she was courteous and compassionate throughout. I knew their lunch break cut-off time was approaching, and she knew it was important that I get these medications quickly.

Fifteen minutes later, I walked out with the needed medications at a dramatically reduced price. She offered them with consultative reminders and a smile.

Before I left I complimented her on her gracious and efficient manner and her exemplary customer service.

She said, “You are so welcome. Thank you for saying that. We don’t get that kind of gratitude very often.”

Note to self: When people inspire you, tell them.

Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor emeritus. Reach her at sharjohn99@gmail.com.