A few years ago I worked in the marketing department for a seafood manufacturer in Brunswick, Georgia. I was the go-to person for a new product the company had recently launched, and worked closely with the sales team to get the support materials they needed for meetings, tradeshows, sales calls and various other requests. This often involved sending product samples -sales people can be a demanding bunch- and this crew was no different. Everyone needed something, and needed it yesterday, and the requests came fast and furious and often at the 11th hour. Some days I thought about throwing my work cell phone into the miles of marsh near our office, but I was saved by Buddy, the hard-working and kind man who worked in the warehouse and shipped everyone’s product samples all over the country to various locations. Southern, respectful, and religious, Buddy was in his mid-60s, affixed his Jesus sticker to the back of his Harley, and ran in road races on the weekends. He was perhaps one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met, and one of the nicest bad-asses I’ve ever known. There were days, as the sales teams’ requests filtered in, I’d send him 20 emails, call him 10 times, and then call again when somebody inevitably changed his mind, or the date, or the address. He never complained, just got the job done, on days when things got crazy, I’d go down and help him, clarify requests or leave him notes. We worked well together and by the end of my 2+ years there, we’d developed a great working relationship. We’d check in on each other regularly, he’d let me know when product samples were running low, I’d space out requests, (which were must less frequent at that point) and give him clear direction. A week before my last day at the job, I walked down to his office and told him how thankful I was for his hard work, how helpful he’d been and what a pleasure it’d been to work with him. I offered to take him to lunch (this was really the least I could’ve done, as I knew we ran him ragged some days with so many demanding, last minute, and sometimes ridiculous requests). He looked at me and said, “Oh, well that’s nice, but I can’t.” I looked at him, quizzically, most likely as if he was speaking a different language, because I’m quite certain I’ve never turned down a free lunch. “No,?” I asked. “I go home and eat lunch with my wife every day, I’ve been doing it for 40 years,” he replied. Buddy showed the same level of commitment in every area of his life, and people like him restore my faith and hope in love, loyalty, and dedication.
Since I moved back to Boston, I’ve been helping my friends by watching their two girls a few afternoons a week while I’ve been job searching. Bruce and Maggie are both Ivy-league educated, extremely intelligent and I’ve known their daughters since they were born. An architect, consultant, and urban planner, Maggie is politically active in the city of Lawrence, and while her daughters attend private school, the family resides in Lawrence, a predominately Hispanic community. As a white family, they are the minority in their Lawrence neighborhood, and are active in the local community. The girls play basketball and take swimming lessons at the local Boys & Girls Club, they’ve been taught that not everyone is exactly like them or has the same background, and that that’s okay. The day after the recent presidential election, with a country divided and many concerned for the future, I dropped off the oldest daughter, who’s 10 years old, at a writing group for kids at a café in Lawrence. We walked upstairs to the meeting space at the café and when we entered the room I looked around at the other children who had already arrived, an Asian girl, and a Hispanic boy, and the only reason I noticed or noted race was a result of the previous 48 hours. The kids saw other kids their own age, with similar interests and ideas, who were there for one reason: to create. In that moment I had hope that’s all they’ll ever see.
“Always remember that you are unique…just like everybody else.”