Many years ago I was at a wedding. During the cocktail hour I was hanging out with a college pal. He wasn’t really a pal but I don’t live in a world of acquaintances, everyone is my friend. However, in this case, pal, or friend, is a little bit of a stretch because I’m pretty sure this guy would be able to pick me out of a lineup but my name, not a chance. Not that that defines what a friend is….
Anyway, we spent a good 15 minutes chatting about life, and how what really matters is how you be in the world. And we realized, after laughing about the structure of cool in the space of college, what was really important in life was simply being a nice person. And, how nice a person you are is directly proportionate to how cool you are – so says the authority on cool. But seriously, try this on – being cool is being nice and being nice is being cool. And an important aspect of what makes a nice and now cool person is giving. Giving without any expectations of a return on your actions.
A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I got a handwritten card in the mail. This card wasn’t sent to wish a happy birthday, celebrate a holiday or to offer condolences or a get well. It was just a note to say “hello” from our friend who lives cross country. We were genuinely moved by this gesture; a simple little something that said, “hey, just wanted to let you guys know I love you and am thinking of you” in such a pure, innocent, caring and nice way. I don’t write letters (or cards) to anyone unless the moment or day dictates. I don’t think I’ve gotten letters (or cards) unless the moment or day dictated. It was an especial experience for me, and I really appreciated it. So much so that I quickly sprung into action and did all I could to seize, err, I mean bastardize the moment. We finished reading the card, gave our friend the adulation he had coming and I was off… off to the nearest computer to instantly contact him via Face time. Of course I had to pitstop at FaceBOOK to ensure he had Face Time before I could visually intrude on his personal space. And visually intrude we did, but I know he was happy to see us as we were to see him. The point is that what he did – writing that note for no reason whatsoever other than he loves us – was really nice…and cool.
Speaking of cool, I’m volunteering with a not for profit called Behind the Book on Thursday. We’re visiting with a school, CS 21 in Bedford Stuyvesant, to complete a project the 5th graders started with author Alex Simmons, on the “The Art of Comic Making.” The children have worked with Mr. Simmons and have written stories, done the artwork including lettering, penciling and coloring, and are now ready to add the finishing touches to their comics. I’m not really sure what my role will be but whatever it is, I’m fired up for it. I’ve done some volunteering with BtB before (affixing address labels and NON SELF-ADHESIVE stamps to a mailer and then schlepping that mail to the Post Office, or in other words, just getting it done) and really appreciate their mission to motivate young people to become engaged readers by connecting them to contemporary writers and illustrators. It should be a blast.
And if that isn’t cool enough, I was accepted to and completed training to be a volunteer at the 9/11 Memorial. One of my friends has been volunteering there and suggested I do the same. And I just went with it because I think if I’d thought more about it before committing, I might not have taken the leap. You see, my way of dealing with 9/11 is to keep my memories stored in a small place inside my hide, and I choose not to visit that place much. So this is going against my psychological defense mechanisms but so far I’m glad I’m going down that road. Perhaps it may help some wounds that never quite healed correctly. Anyway, I still have to pick a day and a time slot to go (10AM – 1:30PM, 1:30PM – 5PM or 5PM – 8PM) but it’s happening. And soon.
This wasn’t a self aggrandizing post patting myself on the back because I do these things. In fact, I thought long and hard about how to convey my message; this post had been sitting in my queue for about a month. Maybe I’m being a little dramatic – a lot had to do with my schedule filling up between my Jumpstart classes and the consulting commitment that followed. I just wrote this post because I’m excited to be doing these nice things and excited to experience these cool experiences. And who knows, in giving there may be a bulb that goes off in my head, or a path that’s illuminated for me. But either way, I’m doing this because I can, and I want to. And I’m cool. World… it’s on.