Friday, November 18, 2016

The Ripple Effect

Many of my friends and family are really upset about the outcome of the election. If you know me at all you know that I am too.

But this isn’t a political post.

I’ve had several conversations over the past couple of weeks about how an individual can affect change. There are people out there who can make a large-scale impact on the world. Mother Teresa, for example, or Elon Musk.  But just because my scope of influence is way, way smaller than theirs, that doesn’t mean that I can’t make a difference that matters. And that’s not just true of me, of course. Anyone can.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the scope of whatever disaster you imagine will happen because of [insert catalyst here – Trump’s presidency, illegal immigration, terrorism, global warming – whatever it is that keeps you up at night]. But I know that I can’t change the results of the election. I can’t slow down the melting of the icecaps. I can change my own behaviors so that my contribution to environmental issues is minimized, but I alone can’t fix it.

What I can fix is one child’s ability to read or do their math problems. I can fix a family’s ability to eat healthy food for a week. I can hold someone’s hand while they wait for news from the operating room. I can provide a woman living at a shelter an outfit to wear to a job interview.

My point is that if we want to change the world, we need to start in our communities. If you are frustrated or angry with the state of your community, state, or country, go out and make a difference on your street. Imagine the impact if everyone did just one thing. Imagine if everyone did just one thing every month.

This was what I was telling my brother Tuesday night. Then on Thursday, the leaders of the company I work for said the same thing – it’s time to take care of our communities. And lest you think it was all just talk, they put power behind their words. All employees at 22squared now have 5 VTO days per year to take for volunteer efforts, and if someone is involved in a larger-scale program, they can apply to take a whole month.

I’m grateful to be working for a company that encourages community service. The next step is finding more opportunities to make an impact – to throw a small pebble into the pond and see the ripples grow.

What will you do?

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Grieving For My Friend

My friend Sebastian Benjamin died last Sunday night. I am heartbroken for his family. His wife is a friend - I actually introduced them. And he has three beautiful children whose lives will be forever affected by the loss of this man.

I don’t remember meeting Sebastian. We worked together at JWT Atlanta, and while he started there a couple of years after I did, I have no recollection of a Sebastian-less JWT. Even though we worked on different accounts, we got to be friends, I’d even say good friends, and we talked about everything.

Sebastian was funny. And he thought I was funny, so he made me feel good. We laughed a lot. For the majority of our time together at JWT, we were just two people in a common orbit, spending time together when we could.

For about a year, I actually worked for Sebastian on the US Virgin Islands account. That wasn’t the best arrangement, as it turned out. I wasn’t what the account person he needed on the account, and he wasn’t the manager I needed. But when I moved on to another account, our friendship remained strong, thank God.

I already said he was funny. He was also smart. And he cared about his friends. And when he smiled, everyone around him was warmed by it. He had a “colorful” vocabulary. He was a pain in the ass because he always wanted the work to be better, and he could never tell the client no. He loved his wife, Kim, and told me many times that she was the best thing that had ever happened to him, and he didn’t deserve her. He was madly in love with his children.

All week, memories of Sebastian have been flooding my mind. After I left JWT, we didn’t see each other much. Lives move in different directions. My last memory of him is at an impromptu party at another friend’s house. We were all sitting out on her balcony, and Sebastian was in the corner, right next to me, and we were all laughing. If I won’t have the luxury of making more memories with him, I’m glad this is what I’m left with. But I’m going to miss that laughter.

Rest in peace, my good friend. And I hope you know how much you were loved. The world is a little less vivid without you here.