Friday, August 31, 2012

An Inspiring August

Like many of you, this summer has absolutely blown by for me. Just this week my kids went back to school, marking the end of another summer and a start to another school year. I hear myself saying those clich├ęd lines, “where did the summer go”, “time is just blowing by”, etc, etc. Well as I think back on the past few months, I will certainly remember the summer of 2012 as a time of intense work, with the successful completion of the sale of our company. While certainly significant, I will also remember this summer for some extraordinary moments with my family across the month of August.

It was earlier this month, when as a family we drove from Atlanta to Rehoboth Beach Delaware to visit friends that had gathered for a few days at the beach. It was right in the midst of the London Olympics, so every night we would get back to the hotel, climb into the beds and watch the coverage of the evening. It didn’t matter whether it was the swimming finals, synchronized diving, or water polo; we just enjoyed being together and sharing the moments as a family. It was the day after one of these “Olympic Moments” where I found myself down at the beach in the surf with my son Bryson. We somehow got into the unlikely conversation about the “medal counts” comparing the U.S. vs. the other countries, especially China. Bryson was questioning the whole media coverage of this element, and why was there so much focus on America “beating” the other countries, vs. just reporting on the success of the athletes more broadly. This lead to us talking about how at times it’s easy/typical (and maybe unfortunate) to think that a country should be “measured” by how much they “win” (in athletics, business, wars, etc) vs. thinking about measuring a county’s success by other metrics. I suggested that an age old idea was to assess societies not by how they treat their strongest, but how they treat their weakest. Most entities (cultures, businesses, families, teams, etc) do just fine when things are going well; usually a truer “test” of an entity is how they handle their tough times, the breakdowns, the tragedies, the “losses”. Bobbing in the Atlantic Ocean, having a very “real” conversation with my 14 year old son, totally inspiring!

Well a week or so later, we found ourselves visiting my sister and her family in Seattle. My brother-in-law works for the Gates Foundation, and he hosted us for a visit to their offices and a tour of their visitor center. Jennie, Marie and Bryson and I were blown away by the needs/issues globally and the audacious aspirations of the foundation to make a significant impact on a variety of major global issues. One of the brochures at the visitor center had this simple quote on the front that has stayed with me since our visit, “Every person deserves the chance to live a healthy productive life.” Seems simple, seems obvious, yet for billions of individuals across the globe, well out of reach! This visit and that simple quote has pushed us as a family, all four of us, to talk more about what we are doing to “give back.” We have been so fortunate, what can we do to have a greater impact, obviously not on the scale of the Gates Foundation, but on our scale, in our town, in our neighborhood? That simple quote,” Every person deserves the chance to live a healthy productive life,” pertains equally to families and kids growing up without adequate water, sanitation and health care in Dhaka Bangladesh as it does to families and kids with those same challenges in Atlanta Georgia.

While it is true that the summer has flown by, I have been deeply inspired by the last few weeks. I feel so fortunate to be part of a wonderful family, and am proud that we can not only enjoy “vacation time” together, but have these marvelous moments that will leave an impact on me for the rest of my life. So often we absolutely “blow through” life, the work days and the “fun” days all just flying by in a blur. I know for certain that I need to do a better job to stay “present” in the moments I have that are just family time. I know I need to abolish the idea of “multi-tasking” my family with my blackberry, and work on staying 100% focused on what we are doing together, what we might be learning about together. You never know,with a little bit of work, I might just have a few more inspiring months like this August!