Jul 2008

Stir the Soul

Wendy Berger Shapiro is a current member of the Wexner Heritage Program. Wendy is President of WBS Equities, LLC, a real estate development company specializing in development of build-to-suit “green” buildings and industrial buildings for food and beverage companies. She can be reached at wendy@wbsequities.com.

The City of Chicago is currently among the four finalist cities bidding to host the 2016 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Olympics can be a transformative event for a city as has been the case in Madrid, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and Atlanta. As part of any city’s bid, a mass marketing campaign is created. Public sentiment weighs heavily on the IOC’s choice of host city. Chicago’s campaign to excite the community features the tag line “Stir the Soul” which goes well with the city’s unofficial motto, “Make No Small Plans.”

I am an avid sports fan and I am currently training to compete in my 18th triathlon and am very hopeful that Chicago will be chosen to host the games. My training routine affords me a lot of time to think about what I see around me and what is happening in my life. This week as I ran past one of the many Olympic posters plastered all over the city, I was struck by the personal meaning of “Stir the Soul.” As the Chicago group nears the end of our formal participation in the Wexner program, I have spent a great deal of time thinking about the impact of the program on my life. The end of the program will be for me just the beginning of what has been a two-year new awakening. I feel as though my soul has been stirred by the program and that my drive to make new and bigger plans has been rekindled by my participation in the program and by my classmates.

Professor Lawrence Hoffman devoted an entire class prior to Pesach on Pesach and what the meaning of the holiday truly is. He shared with us his personal feelings and traditions and the depth of his emotions about his practices. At the end of class, my soul had once again been stirred and I decided to create a grand plan to lead in an entirely new and different way for me. The next leadership role I planned to take on was to lead my entire extended family (mother, siblings, nieces and nephews) on a path to a more devoted and enriched practice of Judaism. It has become clear to me that with strong leadership I can rekindle the flame long ago dampened and help create a foundation that can be passed from generation to generation.

Immediately after class I called my brother to ask if he would host and lead a Seder for our family. I am proud to report that our family celebrated our first Seder together in many years. It was an incredible evening filled with family, food, and joy. By the end of the evening, it was clear to all of us that this was the beginning of a tradition that we will continue. I will continue to look for these kinds of opportunities to provide leadership within my family. The moment that we sat at the table to begin our Seder was for me a truly defining leadership moment, a moment in which my stirred-up soul was truly satisfied. My grand plan now includes a trip to Israel next year for the entire family.

Of all of the leadership positions I have been privileged to hold in the Chicago Jewish Community, this may be my most unexpected and most important. Whether or not Chicago wins the bid to host the 2016 Olympics, the spirit of the games is with me.