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Saturday morning in Connecticut

This morning, I met a delicately-statured lady at the hotel restaurant named Jael. She was bustling around doing thrice as much as her male contemporaries, and we struck up a sweet conversation after I commented about her being a busy little bee. As we talked she said she feels like the world has lost touch with humanity and that we all need to pay more attention to each other, to smile, and connect through conversation. That we should work hard to serve others. My brief encounter with Jael was a warm reminder that many people are starving for the richly textured life society gladly dropped and left behind when it reached for a smaller, faster, smarter phone. She told me about her son, about how she learned to serve others from her roots in Asia, and how she appreciates the chance to talk to people who actually see her … a person. I saw her, and I liked her immediately, pretty sure that I could sense her heart open to receive any warm human outreach. Sadly, no one else paid her any attention. I’m so glad I did.

​Following breakfast, I headed out to get a taxi for the train station to get on my way to Washington, D.C., only to learn that there weren’t any taxis nearby. German the bell hop personally drove me to the train station​–a gracious gesture given my limited time to make my reservation​. During the ride he told me about his ​ailing ​daughter, and about how the doctors ask for proof of insurance papers before addressing her by name or even looking twice at her, even after three years of treatments. “Healthcare isn’t about people,” he said. “It’s about money.” He wore the worry of a papa and the armor of a father in the fine creases drawn across his brow and at the corners of his eyes when he talked about her. He told me exactly how to get to the train tracks, and I hugged him, compelled to whisper “God bless,” as I left. ​He bowed his head slightly, and smiled gingerly. ​I couldn’t help but wonder if God himself asked me to do that very simple thing … to simply listen and allow German to serve and feel appreciated for taking care of another fellow human being. I knew I was safe in his care as a guest of the hotel, and as a friend in humanity.

​O​n the platform of Track 2 at the train station, I saw a lone man around whom lots of people walked, ignoring his existence​ except their sidestepping his wheelchair​. He wore a brown, delicately woven cap over his balding head​, and​ I noticed that the top portion of his left ear was missing. He spoke with a thick Spanish accent, wore bifocals, and gladly told me about my train when I asked him if I was in the right place. He was on his way to New Haven to the VA hospital, and I learned that he was discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1969 after serving in Vietnam. He told me all about the beach to the northeast of Stamford, and of his enjoying that part of the country for the last 45 years between bouts of travel all across the U.S. He called me “ma’am” when he spoke to me, and looked directly into my eyes with kind strength. Then, when the train people announced that my train would arrive on Track 3, I thanked him and headed toward the footbridge; he waved good-bye from the platform, wearing a broad, grateful smile, as I looked back in his direction from the top of the escalator. We became friends and bid a final farewell without ever knowing each other’s names. When I emerged on Platform 3 on the opposite side​ of the tracks​, he was gone.

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Journey to the 2012 Paralympic Games in London

In May, I wrote a very short story about my behind-the-scenes experience in the development an It Gets Better video and the people who made it possible. The message was simple: Leadership is not about causing people to do what they otherwise might not choose without influence, but about drawing out the intrinsic value that lives inside and the personal conviction that flows from it. That story, supported by the many votes of friends and colleagues, landed me an opportunity to attend the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.

Robert Frost reminds us that where there are tears in the writer, there will be tears in the reader. And, where the writer is in London, so too will the reader be.

I look forward to bringing the London Games and the Paralympic Movement home to you. Join me on the journey as I report out to you from inside the 2012 Paralympics in London.

Follow me on Twitter or subscribe to this blog to get notifications by email when new stories are published.

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CREDITS

Many thanks to my friend, Ken, for his creative genius, heart, and extraordinary ability to turn ideas and inspiration into art that brings neighbors a little closer.

Watch the It Gets Better video that features the individuals who inspired me to write my winning story:

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2011

When I think about 2011, I feel sort of like my good friend Barney:

Where did it go?  It was right there in my palm and before I could identify the thief, my year was gone! I lost it somewhere and I can’t remember where I was so I can’t even retrace my steps to find it. At this time last year, I was very sad; I’d just lost my grandma, my senses of roots and family and eternity were hypersensitive and raw. The idea of resolving to lose 10 lbs. seemed absurd and ridiculous because, well, it is an absurdity to dedicate a year to such a ridiculously scratchable, scuffable, crackable, meaningless aspiration. At this time last year, I aimed to love others more and fret less in 2011. These seemed like the perfect goals to a girl for whom the morning sunrise would bring up the flowers in spring, even as it seemed impossible in the dead of winter.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the way our world inhales and exhales with the seasons, the way we count on a new year to make way for rebirth the way we count on the Etch-A-Sketch to come clean with a few shakes. If it were only so simple, like a childhood game; if drawing pictures was the business of our lives and erasing mistakes were so easy as doing the watusi, what would you set out to accomplish?  It is, after all, a “dance made up for romance!”

This year, one of my best friends got married in Estes Park; it was a gift for me to be her maid of honor. I spent my birthday with dear friends in Eastern Washington where I faced my fear of big hairy spiders with…well, with my bare face! I gambled $1…and lost it, but indulged blissfully in three bowls of pumpkin soup over three meals at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill in Las Vegas. I took a long walk with a dear friend on a golf course in Orlando, danced with a professional ballet dancer in New York, and fled to Chicago to avoid Hurricane Irene where I went boating with a friend on a river in the middle of a tiny town called Kankakee while my colleagues waded through water in Vermont and Washington. I attended a 20 year anniversary party for friends (a beautiful couple!) in Dallas and learned that Texans are so proud of their alma matters that they paint the university logos on their sidewalks. I ran a 5K in Anaheim, visited the World Trade Center Memorial, attended shows at Carnegie Hall and on Broadway in New York City, and saw Janet Jackson, David Nail, Charlie Sheen, and Rascal Flatts in Denver.  I had one of the loveliest breakfasts of my life just off the lawn of the White House and pretended to be a local in Washington DC. I became a Starbucks Gold Card holder, a Frontier Airlines Summit frequent flier, and remained the proud owner of a 1991 Ford Festiva which I maintain is a financially wise decision albeit not necessarily a socially image-conscious one. I found my sister who I’d lost 11 years ago and cried like they do on Oprah when she makes such things possible. My house flooded and I skipped through a few rain puddles. I learned how to use words like “writer” and “subject matter expert” to describe myself…and mean it.

By all accounts, 2011 was a lovely year, one quite worthy of thievery. I met wonderful, interesting people and spent time with old and new friends, family, and myself learning to love each more generously. I remain encumbered by the desire to give more, go farther, learn more, and lose 10 lbs. What would it be to look ahead to a new year without a weight loss goal? I submit that it might be anti-American to do such an audacious thing!

2012 is off to a slow start. The 2011 Christmas cards still haven’t hit the post office and I am due to return a good many calls and messages to people I authentically care about, but the truth is that I’m not worried. Worry gives me wrinkles, of which I wish to remain free of for as long as possible. That’s how Grandma would have advised me, anyway. What’s ahead is uncertain, adventurous, wonderful, and challenging.  Worthy of thievery, I’m sure.

I’ll continue to subscribe to a loving view of the world and release my grip on worry in 2012. And, I’ll do the watusi every once in awhile.

Love more…freely.  Fret less…freedom.