Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Humility of Community

Last week I had the chance to be back in Manhattan for full day meeting/pitch with a large PE firm.  Over the past few months, I have found my self meeting with a number of PE firms in NY, their offices all being just a few blocks from each other in midtown.  Surprising clustered; I have found myself a great little hotel that I have made my new NY home, “The Lexington” at 48th and Lexington.  Nothing fancy for sure, but a great location, decent rooms, a nice bar and a good deli across the street.  Not a bad combo!

As is my habit, I typically get up early (regardless of time zone and location) and either hit the gym or hit the streets for an early walk and to grab a coffee.  When staying at “The Lex,” I have got into the habit of starting my day with a walk a few blocks south on Lexington ave. and straight into Grand Central Station.  There is an amazing energy to be in Grand Central at 6:30 or so on a weekday when the commuting trains start coming into the city.  The energy is electric and intoxicating!  I have discovered a great little coffee place called “Joe” in the hallway not far from the Lexington ave. entrance (try their Cortado, it rocks!) that has become a required stop.

Well with coffee in hand last Tuesday morning, I found my way into the “Main Concourse” and was once again blown away by the scene.  The weather was beautiful, a crisp bright fall morning, with great light literally “pouring” into the station.  I worked my way through the growing crowd, the buzz and energy building, and found my way up a set of stairs so I could take in the scene. (the picture above is from that spot.) 

Taking it all in, the coming of the commuter trains and the growing crowds, with each individual busily heading off into their day, I was struck by the idea for the title of this essay.  I felt privileged and also humbled to be part of the mass of commuters, the “community” of Grand Central Station on that recent Tuesday morning.  It struck me that while I had been busy and focused on the presentation ahead of me that day, a huge lesson for the me was happening right there in the train station. After a few minutes of “drinking deep” from the hustle/bustle of the scene, I found my bay back onto Lexington ave., fresh coffee in hand, and made my way back to the hotel deeply energized by a most amazing “morning walk.”

  This idea of feeling proud and appreciative of being part of a group of people, a “community”, bigger than us is a bit rare these days.  With headlines filled with a shooter at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado, or terror attacks in Beirut, Bangladesh, Paris, or Mali, we seem surrounded by the darkest sides of our “community.”  We as the “community of humanity” are not and should not be defined solely by our darkest deeds or tendencies.  Indeed, WE are capable of terrible things, clearly highlighted in our history over the past centuries and the most recent weeks.  Equally WE are capable of wonderful things, great moments of beauty, of selflessness, of love and charity, great moments of caring/sharing for others that often don't find their way into the headlines of the moment.  This truth, the reality of our capabilities for great “good” and great “evil” spans cultures, nations, faiths and traditions.  It IS a reality of our human history, well documented over the centuries and millennium. 

I am not debating or denying this historic dynamic.  My suggestion, inspired by a busy train station, is that the vast majority of our community are NOT trying to destroy innocent lives, are NOT trying to dominate their world view on their neighbors, are NOT trying to dominate or discriminate their fellow “community” members based on race, creed, sex or sexual orientation.  MY view, again freshly inspired by Grand Central Station, is that most of us ARE trying to find their way in the world, ARE trying to make tomorrow just a bit better than yesterday, ARE trying to make the future better for their families or their children. 

 Leaving the station last week, I was humbled and inspired by “our community” and proud and motivated to play a role.  Regardless of headlines, I am convinced in our potential for greater good than evil; certainly brought to life by our political and religious leaders across the globe, but also in the actions of morning commuters everywhere!

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