Steve Jobs died yesterday.
I met Steve just once, in the early 1990’s,when as CEO of NeXT Computer he was visiting the trading room of O’Connor and Associates at the Chicago Board of Trade, where I was on the technology management team, to see how we were using the sleek, innovative and very powerful NeXT workstations for our securities trading business. (Jobs founded NeXT in the late 1980’s after being forced out of Apple, to which he returned in the late 1990’s.) What I recall of that morning meeting was his intensity, curiosity and delight that the NeXT workstation, originally developed for the education market, had found a home in the hurly-burly world of securities trading.
He belongs in a select group of people who in the last century have had an impact on nearly everything we do (think Henry Ford, the Wright brothers, Thomas J. Watson, and yes, Bill Gates, among others). Ninety million people have bought an iPhone, countless others iPods, iPads and Macs. His genius was the ability to make something very complicated under the skin into something simple, beautiful, intuitive and fun.
His commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005 seems eerily prophetic today. “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. Yet death is the destination we all share. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
Steve Jobs was not a Christian, but by all accounts he was a man dedicated to his family and his Buddhist faith. We can learn something from him.
Coincidentally, this morning I received the weekly email column from John Shelby Spong, retired Episcopal Bishop of Newark, New Jersey. In it he remembered a woman named Phyllis, who lived in a public housing project in Stoneleigh, a village near Coventry, England. Well into her eighties, Phyllis lovingly tended a small 18” by 36” garden in front of her apartment complex, what the British refer to as “alms housing.” According to Spong, “She dug up that tiny piece of ground each year and planted flowers chosen so that there would be something blooming from the spring through the fall. She tended the garden with care, weeding it and watering it daily. It beautified this sidewalk along which many citizens of the village walked each day.”
Spong continued, “Here was an elderly woman, with very little of this world’s goods, making a gift to her village, a wonder for all to enjoy. This garden illustrated for me that every person, no matter how modest, has a gift to give.”
We can learn something from Phyllis.
When Steve Jobs unveiled the brand new Macintosh computer in 1984, the little computer with a built-in handle displayed the words “insanely great” in a cursive font, something unprecedented in its day. (To watch go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FeteO40nRQ) And when you stop to think about it, isn’t that what God is calling us to be? Insanely great in our own way, big or small?
We can’t all be Steve Jobs, but we can all be like Phyllis, insanely great in the way God made us and calls us to be.
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