I know it sounds simple and obvious, but I believe it is important to take the time to self-reflect (yes, I am once again suggesting the benefit of SELF-REFLECTION) to “make the most of every day we are given.”

I think the first time this concept really hit home for me was when I was a senior at Abington Heights High School in Clarks Summit, PA. Several of my classmates and I performed in a Thorton Wilder play, “Our Town.”

In my very favorite scene of “Our Town,” a young woman, Emily, (who has just died while giving birth) asks a person named the Stage Manager (who appears to represent God) if she can go back to earth just one more day to truly understand what it means to be alive.

The Stage Manager strongly recommends against going back but does permit her to do it for one day. She chooses to go back to an earlier scene in the play when she was a young girl. She is in the kitchen with her mother and asks her mother, “Mother, am I pretty?” She implores her mother to really look at her. Her mother cannot hear her, however, and can only repeat the hectic schedule that took place that morning in the earlier scene as they were getting ready for school: “Eat your breakfast, don’t miss the bus!” etc. At that point, Emily leaves the scene and returns to the Stage Manager in tears, asking, “Do any human beings realize life while they live it?!” And I think the stage manager responds by stating something like, “No…the saints and poets maybe. They do some.”

I thought a lot about the play this week given the situation regarding a good friend, Jim Kouris. Jim was a colleague at Madison Dearborn and a member of the fantastic Kellogg class of EMBA 69, one of the first classes I taught after leaving Baxter and becoming a Clinical Professor at Kellogg. Jim always had a great big smile and was one of the most selfless people I have ever met. Whenever he entered the room, he put a smile on everyone’s face. Whenever he would call me on the phone, I would start to chuckle even before he said anything. His EMBA 69 classmates told me that Jim always paid for food and drinks even though others clearly had more funds than he did.

It really struck me how fast it happened. Jim and I went to a few Chicago Cubs games with friends several weeks ago, and I invited him to my daughter Suzie’s wedding on September 4th. He was very excited to attend. He did mention that he was scheduled to take clients on a scuba diving trip but that he would make sure to be back in time for Suzie’s wedding. His comment to me before leaving on the scuba trip was, “Harry, make sure you keep the drinks cold for me.”

And then, three days before Suzie’s wedding, I received a call from Bernie Birit, our Kellogg EMBA global director, informing me that Jim had taken a last dive before flying back to Chicago and had passed away from heart failure. I honestly felt that all of the oxygen had been sucked out of the room, and I was lightheaded. Not Jimmy!! He was too special! He was a guy that truly made the most of every day. I used to tell him, “Jimmy, your glass is not half empty or half full. Your glass is overflowing!”

Jim’s passing is yet another reminder to never forget what is important in life. Make sure to take the time to truly self-reflect. What is your purpose? What are your values? What really matters? Are you postponing things that are important in your life, assuming you will “get to it in the future?” Maybe you won’t have the time.

Well, since I am an optimist and a person like Jimmy whose “cup is overflowing,” let me end on a positive note: Jimmy died while doing what he loved, and I am convinced that we will meet up again in heaven. I am certain of that, so Jimmy, “Make sure you keep the drinks cold for me, old friend!” 👍😁🥰

Here is a copy of Jim’s obituary. Please take a moment to send a prayer his way.