Up close and personal with Helen Atteck

By Michael Lashley

Helen Atteck
Helen Atteck

Let me tell you a little story about the importance of a sense of accountability to oneself for finding fulfillment in life. A story is sometimes a very effective way of explaining a principle.

Almost a year ago, I sent the following tribute to the family of my friend Helen Atteck who lives in St. Catharines in southern Ontario. It was my contribution to a surprise birthday present, a book that Helen’s children, other relatives and friends were putting together to thank her for the love, valuable support and inspiration that she had provided to all of them over the years.

“My dear Helen:

As I make a “shortlist” of the dozens of ways in which you have enriched our lives in at least three continents, I have chosen to weave some of them into a single tapestry that depicts how you have brought us into your life and weaved our lives into the lives of so many others.

By blending your multi-talented persona with your total love and devotion to your beloved husband and life-partner Phil, you have sustained a legacy of generous giving that is so vividly highlighted in the valuable benefits to thousands of persons and organizations in Trinidad and Tobago and Canada whose successes have been nurtured by the Port of Spain / St. Catharines Twinning Association.

Brock U. has already named one of its facilities in honor of Phil. As experts on the Chinese migration to the Caribbean, you have together gifted your energies to strengthening the Caribbean and Chinese communities in the Niagara Region.

I am proud, Helen, to be your friend and an admirer of the many achievements of your extended family.

– Michael”

The relevance of that story is that it illustrates how important it is for our sense of personal satisfaction in life to be based on living according to our own values.

We need to feel that we are more than our academic qualifications, our careers, our level of income and our material standard of living. This explains the dysfunctional lives and chronic unhappiness of so many wealthy people, so many highly qualified and “accomplished” people and, especially, so many celebrities in sports, entertainment and politics.

Put differently, the point is that our definition of success must not be limited to the doctor and lawyer syndrome in which these two and several other professions are touted to be the epitome and the shining examples of success. And this more mature definition of success also includes the attitude that respects as full “professionals” all the technical personnel in such fields as finance, accountancy, law, engineering, human resource management, information technology and social work.

True contentment comes from being at peace with our inner selves, who we want to be as opposed to whom and what others want us to be. We are accountable to ourselves for the duty to care about ourselves and to judge ourselves on our own terms.

So the significance of the much-lauded contributions of persons like Helen and Phil Atteck lies in the fact that their lifestyle and their generous giving of themselves to many communities and to two countries are rooted in caring for themselves and their non- professional vocations.

Helen does not need to write any more of her well researched and richly creative books. She is still writing two more at this moment, because she wants to and because she findsfulfillment in doing so.

Helen, Amen to you!

Michael Lashley
Michael Lashley