Speaking with Billy Ward is like drinking hot tea as the fall breeze begins to settle; he makes you feel comfortable and helps you take a moment to realize the small things that really matter. Ward lives in each and every moment with an awareness of what really matters to him. When we spoke to him, he reiterated the importance of relationships with the people in his life, specifically his family. The way he spoke about his love for his family made me visualize the people who I care about, who make my life as whole and beautiful as it is. As he said, realizing that our relationships with other people are the most important things in our lives does not make them easy, but it makes everything else worthwhile.
Think of it this way: remember in elementary school when you didn’t think your teachers had lives outside of the classroom? Well, Billy Ward is one of those teachers that makes you remember that everyone, no matter what their primary job, has far more to their lives than we imagine. So, yes, Mr. Ward is a school teacher in New Jersey, but he is also a dad, a husband, a coach, a counselor, a practicer of mindfulness… you get it… the list goes on forever! He emphasized the importance of seeing people as more than the aspects of them that we experience on a daily basis. Hearing about his life post-TEDxFoBo reminded me that humans are complex creatures who intersect in so many unexpected and under-appreciated ways, something that deserves reflection.
Ward emphasizes this idea through the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is something that I have been trying to incorporate into my life over the past year and, in its simplest form, can be defined as "living in the moment." I asked for his advice on how to better practice Mindfulness and he said he simply tries to take time each day to reflect. Being present isn’t a grand gesture, he pointed out. We do not have forever, as everything is eventually captured by brevity, but if we live our lives being present and loving those around us, those valuable moments come together to make up our lives.
Taking a few minutes every day, on our ride home from work or in between classes, to reflect on your whole self and the whole of those close to you is a really useful skill for living a life full of appreciation and love. The thing about Billy’s story is that it’s not one of coming of age, rags to riches, or conflict-resolution; it is a collection of moments in his life, some simple, some complex, that have shaped him into who he is today and molded the life he choses to live everyday. We all have something to gain from analyzing our lives in the same way: a matrix filled with moments of light and dark that guide our journey to the inevitable. Such an analysis makes it possible to live every single day for the smallest of victories and appreciate everything that allows those victories to happen.
You can watch Billy Ward's TEDxFoggyBottom talk here.
This post was created as part of TEDxFoggyBottom’s Speaker Project Series. The Speaker Project is an ongoing initiative to reconnect with our past speakers all around the world and speak with them about life post-TEDxFoggyBottom. Stay tuned for more interviews and reflections by our team members!