“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I have a photograph of my mom: sugar-pink dress, retro sunglasses, sunburnt nose, open-mouthed smile as her arms reach out to welcome me home after a morning Amtrak trip from hot New York.

She is magnetic. In childhood, playdates clamor for a seat at the kitchen counter so she will cut apples and lend them her colored pencils. At Thanksgiving, younger cousins shift chairs to be next to her. My adult friends visit home and push their evening departure “just one more hour” to be around her. I read their faces: they are listened to, empathized with, appreciated. At ease.

I cannot claim to possess the natural magnetism of my mother. But as I more closely examine her interactions with the world, I understand that her effect is both accidental and intentional. Accidental, because she is enchanting; intentional, because of her conscious gestures that seek to connect with those around her. She opens her home, invites into conversation, asks for opinions, shares confidences. She is generous with her time and generous with her attention.

I will spend my life cultivating openness and connectivity – deliberately. I will be the person who makes others feel understood and admired, laughed with and invested in. I will be remarkable by being approachable, and purposeful through listening. Like my mother, I will challenge myself to raise the standard of each interaction and encourage others to meet me there.

— Sarah Shanfield