One of my first encounters with Alison was a little under five years ago, when she addressed the staff about our attitudes on Atlas Rubicon. She was in charge of it all and we, perhaps mostly I, were not getting it done. I walked away a bit miffed at what she had to say, believing she was wrong, and when a friend encouraged me to sit and chat with her. I did.
I believe conflict reveals truth - in an individual and in relationships - and when I brought my conflict to Alison, her patience, honesty, and humility was revealed. I also learned she's hardly ever wrong.
For the next five years, Alison became one of my favorite people to engage in conversation with, because with her, we could talk about some deep and real stuff. I have many friends who are great at conversation, at challenging thoughts and ideas, but most of them are like me - white and male. Alison is neither.
The NY Times published an article that pushed for diversity in classrooms, workplaces, and social circles, because diversity brings "cognitive friction," not narrow-mindedness. With Alison, my mind and ideas are constantly sharpened and refined. Because she isn't afraid to tell me when I'm thinking like a fool. Nor is she too stubborn to dig in her heals and refuse to change her mind, which allows for some extremely honest and fruitful discussions, not debates or arguments. I recently read that we should, "argue like we're right and listen like we're wrong." For me, Alison embodies this habit.
Alison and I talk about all the things people are afraid to talk about. We can talk about Black Lives Matter, discuss movies like Dear White People, contemplate the role of prayer and feminism, and compare our thoughts on Trump. To the point where others are visibly scared, because they aren't familiar with how Alison and I can communicate - open, without judgement or offense. Because of humility.
For me, humility is perhaps the greatest character trait one can possess: the full acknowledgement of one's gifts and talents but the decision to use them, or withhold, for the benefit of others. When I come to my A.A. meetings with Alison, in all her wisdom and knowledge, she does not belittle or carry herself in a, "well, you'll understand it one day. When you're older" sort of way. She is slow to speak and quick to listen. As Chris Anderson says about public speaking, it’s about sharing a gift that you have that will benefit others, not self, the same can be applied to conversations with AA.
Alison also lives a life of humility, with me, with her writing. I've known to many people who, when they're gift or talent is challenged by another, they spread wide, taking up as much room on the couch as possible so nobody else can sit. But Alison scoots over, pats the seat next to her, and asks how she can help. She is not envies or filled with vein conceit. She is humble, not competitive or seclusive. On this point, there is not enough that I can say to how helpful she has been, and how grateful I am for it.
If there were more Alison's in this world, it would most certainly be a better place. She has inspired my writing, encouraged my teaching, and has been a solid and consistent source for wisdom, and correction; she has truly inspired me to be a better teacher, father, husband, friend, and person. She is simply one of the best.
And I will miss her dearly.