Chip’s thought: I met Peter when I was overseeing all of Airbnb’s global hosts. He was such a wise, generous soul in London and that comes through in today’s guest blog post.
There is an old adage that “it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive.” We are all fellow-travellers on our journey through life with 8 billion others who offer us the chance to enrich those journeys as we go.
Recently I boarded a subway train in London – a place where normally people do not strike up conversation but travel in collective silence. I am not one of those people. A young woman in a black hijab seated herself in the place opposite me across the train. She was carrying a heavy business case and a 4-inch thick book of legal procedural rules marked up heavily with her comments. Clearly, she was studying them hard. “Are you a student of law?” I asked her. Surprised by the unusualness of this human contact, she responded and there then ensued 45 minutes of the most delicious conversation one can imagine.
With a little bit of effort, we can often identify elements of our lives with elements of others.’ And so it was with Hanan (name changed for privacy) and me. She shared experiences in her training, as I did looking back four decades to my own, noting both the similarities and the differences. I recommended books I had found formative, including one about a vulnerable teenage girl being inspired to study law and going on to break the glass ceiling and become not just a lawyer but a judge.
My new conversational friend turned out to be of Palestinian heritage, her family now living in Europe, with a passion to succeed for herself. Given the trauma for many of her kinsmen and women at these times, it was poignant that here were Hanan and I – from different ethnicities, different religions and different genders – finding our humanity in common. I was able to share - even in that short journey - my experiences in over 40 years of professional life, in the hope that some of this may be relevant to her as she embarks on the first steps of hers.
I wonder if in 2065, Hanan will take her own journey and strike up a conversation with someone set to contribute to society into the 22nd-century. Most probably she will. We can still live in a small world.
After a 25 year career as a consulting actuary, Peter Tompkins left his corporate consulting at PricewaterhouseCoopers and now puts his skills as an actuary at the service of small and developing countries, coming to grips with their ageing populations and finding good ways to use pension and social security to enhance retirement financial security. His assignments, at times, require the use of the atlas to discover the location of some of the smaller places in the world.