by: Walt Laskos, Principal, The Laskos Group
During our life’s journey, we encounter a wide variety of people. While many of them are like ships passing us in the night, others stand out, not only in our minds but in our hearts as well, for the way they touched our soul. They may be a parent, a mentor, a colleague, or a friend. You know the kinds of people I mean. They’ve earned that sacred spot in our heart because what we’ve learned from them truly is an unforgettable treasure, shaping each of us to be the person we are.
Tom Connors was one of these special people, not only to me but to countless others throughout the global credit union community where he ceaselessly volunteered his time in a variety of ways. He was most known for his service as board chairman at America First Credit Union in Ogden, Utah. I first met Tom at the 2006 Credit Union Development Educators weeklong program in Madison where he was volunteering his time as a mentor. There was something special about Tom that just made my friendship with him click from the very magical moment we met. And so it did, for the past six years.
However, it’s only with Tom’s recent passing that I’ve come to fully realize the giant Tom was and what his passion for credit unions taught me.
First of all, I have to ponder why is it that someone first has to pass on before we can truly appreciate who they are as a person and as an influence in our life. Somehow, I guess the shadow of death casts a whole different perspective on a person’s life, making them come alive in ways we’ve never experienced before.
Tom was a giant among his peers but his real impact on me, as I remember him today, was not that he served with distinction in both the Marines and Air Force; was not that he taught inner-city youth the values of life; and was not that he was a loving husband to Isabelle and father to his children, even though being a loving husband, a father, a teacher, an Air Force officer, and a Marine are virtuous and outstanding qualities we should all admire.
Tom’s true influence on me was what I saw as being his credit union spirituality. He was on fire about credit unions! He appeared to love and admire everyone who was a part of the movement. He was genuinely concerned about the quality of work we do and the members we serve, from the military to those less fortunate, the underserved living throughout America and beyond.
As I see it, Tom’s passion for credit unions was spiritual. If spirituality can be viewed as a source of inspiration or orientation in life; an inner path holding the deepest values and meanings by which to live; or an experience of being that yields a more comprehensive self with other individuals or the human community, then Tom’s passion for credit unions was spiritual. Of course, in no way do I imply that Tom did not have a spirituality resulting from his own personal relationship with his God and Maker as well. Having a credit union spirituality does not deny the other from being so. It simply flows from it.
Think of it. The principles, the values and ethics that give reason and purpose to the credit union reality are a source of inspiration, an inner path and orientation toward life. They certainly enflamed Tom’s heart with a spirit of passion. And, those of you who knew him well can attest to that passion—his unwavering interest and support to all that lives and breathes credit union.
We all have those special people in our lives and for those of us in the credit union movement we’re particularly blessed to have a lot of mentors like Tom. They all were giants who influenced us in ways for a good reason.
Is it to help us become more energized in reaching out to the underserved? Could their passion teach us how to build and improve staff and yes, member morale? Or, is it to simply give us a privileged view of what our movement could truly be if we, too, embraced and lived the same principles, values and ethics in the ways they did? The answer lies in your heart and mine.
Walt Laskos, C.U.D.E., is a relationship-building executive with more than 30-years of experience in public relations, corporate communications and video production. As principal of The Laskos Group in Temecula, California, Walt provides consultation to credit unions and cooperatives designed to foster morale among staff and members by improving rapport with the news media and the quality of organizational communications. For more information, visit www.TheLaskosGroup.com.