Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Why people are so important

So, I have recently become totally hyper-social.

I mean those of you who know me know that I am social, but lately I have been addictively social. It’s so good. I mean I have met some of the most incredible people, seen some of the coolest (and craziest, i mean nuts-bar) things. For crying out loud, I had meetings in Rockefeller Center with some of my best friends. You know like larger than life stuff.

But it’s really about people. People make the experiences.

AND, we have the privilege of knowing people.

And guess what, they are everywhere.

What a wonder.

I mean have you really thought about that. We have the ability to connect to one another. Seriously, wow.

I was in New York walking down the street (well probably busting my butt to get to the next meeting) a few months ago. There were so many people just motoring around. Thick ones, thin ones, all sorts of backgrounds, tourists, bankers, kids, bums. Incredible. It is just a numbing amount of people. Like trying to find your friend from the blimp camera at an Ohio State Michigan football game. Like a huge people gob.

Here is what occurred to me that week that has come into real fruition.

We need to un-numb ourselves from the numbness. Those are important people. During that week I went from stranger to friend with a great guy in New York. A month later he was out in Portland golfing with me and one of my other best friends getting to know my wife and trying to talk me into vacationing in New York. How cool is that? I now have a real friend in New York that I could buzz up and just talk to. This in itself is a fantastic thing. (shout out to Rory! I love that guy and his name, totally cool combo)

My business partners (they are so much more than this to me now, they are true family and proof that business can be deep life stuff) and I became trusting friends bound together with a common purpose. We went to meeting after meeting after meeting. Uptown, downtown, Soho, mojo, good God that city is huge. But in the end, we would hang out at night, have a great dinner, and just enjoy each other. We talked about our families, our fun stories, some hard life stuff too. We drank wine, met more cool people, we left a Yankees game early (sorry Dan-o), and we laughed. We really cared about each other. Connection.

We have to connect to each other, because people are worth it. People are special. We have the privilege of doing this. And we take it for granted. Connection to each other (and I would argue to God especially) is what makes us truly alive. I think this needs to be more clear in our hearts and minds. It needs to make us long to do more, to meet more need, to connect to people. We need to give whatever we got, a good sense of humor, money, time, a good idea, whatever. There is always someone who needs what you have.

I am convinced that it is always our job to take care of those around us.

To be there, to ask hard questions and wait for REAL answers, to love regardless of what is happening, to offer to have dinner, to send an email, to speak words of love and encouragement. Build always, never tear down.

When it’s hard, build anyway.

Look back on the stuff you have made, and the people you have had the privilege of knowing, and celebrate.

I know this guy who does this stuff really well. He is a kick ass party thrower. He has a party for something almost every night at his house. (this in itself is a feat! But wait, there’s more!) He always has a great house, great food, and maybe more important to me these days, really great wine (I am thinking of doing a whole blog on how incredible the invention of wine is right now…don’t get me started). He knows how to do it.

But the kicker for me is totally different. I mean don’t get me wrong, I love a good celebration.

This guy is special. He just takes care of people.

He always creates a place that makes people fit in. We all laugh, tell stories, I mean sit at a true table of communion. This guy, he sees the good in people, he gives freely his goodness, his wealth. He always has a room for the guy who needs a bed and a hot meal. He takes care of his friends. He is friends with his ex-wife. I have the privilege of calling him a friend these days. I really mean this. (p.s. “I also get invited over for these parties a lot too, which is nice,” said in the voice of Bill Murray in Caddyshack ).

We need to be like this. We need to know what is going on in our circles, we need to fill in the gaps.

Just take care of people, give an abundance of yourself. People need you. And the thing is; you (and especially me) need it to.

I think we become so much less human when we are selfish. I know I do.

In the last 3 years there has always been someone living with my wife and I. What a lesson on being selfish. You really see your true colors when your privacy is given away. You see how you feel like you own things, and place that over the importance of people. You are exposed to some of the raw humanness that you really have in your bones. It’s tough.

But giving, and meeting need, and taking care of people, makes you a better human. It has made me a better human. I value stuff much less these days. I have been taught so much about life through the perspectives of those who hurt. I have figured out how to truly value my wife and make her a priority. You know, God teaches in the tough times when we are stretched. I can absolutely say that the last three years of my existence have been the most challenging and definitely the best. My perspective has been shifted.

I will close up with one of the best experiences I have ever had hopefully it will give a picture of what I mean. (forgive me those of you that have heard this already)

Two years ago I was in China. I was with an life long friend doing business in a city called Shen Zhen, which is right by Hong Kong on the Chinese side. We met with a factory for a while and my friend and our vendor were engaged in a good business conversation of which I could understand nothing (it was all in Chinese). Regardless, we were due to get on a plane really soon. But we were only a mile or so from the airport, so no one seemed to be in a hurry to finish talking. And, since I couldn’t understand the conversation, it was all I was thinking about. They finally wrap up so we got in the car. We turn the corner to the main road and there it is; Hell’s worst traffic jam. I mean like ridiculous. It was a 4 lane road with at least 12 cars wide. In the middle of the thing there was another road that was merging and had just ended right into it with no traffic light. About the worst civil engineering I have ever seen. It’s rush hour. There are trucks, cars, smog, bikes, people. Mayhem. No one is going anywhere. We are sitting in one spot for a long time when we realize we are going to miss our flight. I take a look at my friend, we get out of the car, grab our bags, and start running to the airport. As we are running on the sidewalk, the cars follow us. We are now late for the plane, have about a mile long run ahead of us, and now there are cars on the sidewalk that we have to dodge.

Welcome to China.

After a few brushes with death disguised as a semi, I come up on a lady who is obviously trying to make it to the airport too. I see her, and man is she struggling. She has too much stuff. She weighs about 90 pounds, she is looking like she is going to fall apart. And life and the world are moving along around her, ignoring her. As did I. I saw her, and walked past her.

Then I just stopped. My world closed in. Things slowed down.

Seriously I remember this in slow motion. One of those moments. I un-numbed myself. She was a real person. She was alone. She needed help. I let my friend go ahead without me, I picked up her bags, and walked slowly next to her for a mile to the airport. We didn’t say anything I just walked behind her and went at her pace. We got to the airport, I went in, took her things to the counter, and she put everything on a cart and disappeared.

That’s about when I realized that I was originally late for my flight. I hauled up to my counter to check in. My flight was delayed just long enough to get me through security and on the plane as it was taking off. Incredible what happens in this world. Just incredible. We just don’t stop to see it, or to see each other.

It’s really about people.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Desperate Hope

So I have been thinking about hope lately. Well, hope has been weaseling its way into my existence over the last few weeks. It's a strange thing to me. I haven't ever needed it. (yeah right)

I mean, I have hoped for this-es and that-s, but not ever had really real hope. You know like the kind of hope that the slaves had. Someday we will be free kind of hope. I haven't ever needed to.

So this last year has been a bit of a roller-coaster. If you are near my circle, you know that my world has been changed, life-altered, this last year. I took over a company, got new business partners, my friends have changed, I got a dog. You know, my life is different. Its exciting and challenging and all together really stressful.

So in the midst of this chaos, I have started to change. I wasn't intending to, but i have changed. (on a side note, change must happen, it just has to or else you deteriorate. I truly believe this. We must embrace change and integrate it, not fret about it or try to ignore it. All the people I know that are truly mediocre or just downright unsuccessful are afraid of change)

This change I have been going through has got to be some sort of maturation or whatever. (i seriously have just about every person I know call me immature, hence the "whatever") AND in this transformation have become a borderline cynical realist. I have been down this year, I mean really down. I have had maybe the highest highs also. And in the process I have started to think that this is just life. Sometimes you are down, sometimes you are up. That's it. Its reality. Hence the realist in me coming out. "That's how it is, deal." But, is that the world-view a Christian should have, I mean what about joy and all that peace and stuff?

In my world, there's this camp of people that talk about Christianity like it is a self-convinced (some call this the Spirit, but I am afraid to use the Spirit as an justification) look at life through rose colored lenses. Like once you meet Jesus, all your problems go away. Like you don't have relational baggage to attend to, and like you can't be pissed or depressed or needy along the way. This is just garbage. We don't stop being us. God doesn't want us to. Or else, we wouldn't have problems anymore. If there is anything that has been illustrated by history, its that problems keep coming, if not get worse with the church. Again realist, cynical, jerk. Shut up Matt and get on with it.

So there's hope...

Hope intersects the world. Realism sucks, hope is the great equilizer.

I just watched "The Shawshank Redeption" the other day. There is this scene in the prison where the two main characters are talking in "the yard" outside. The main character, Andy, has seemingly gone crazy and everyone thinks he is going to commit suicide. The reality of the prison has set in. Or at least that is what everyone thinks. So he starts this conversation about the ocean and Mexico and how Andy really wants to see it. His friend, Red, tells him to stop because he will never see it and he will just drive himself crazy. Andy responds with something to the effect of, "They can take everything away from you, everything. But they can't take away hope." You see Hope had intersected Andy at a dark time in a dark place. It started changing him.

Hope can just sit there and infect. Hallelujah.

I am learning that hope is what needs to be the thing that drives us in the dark places when its hard to have faith and hard to love people. My generation needs this. We need to realize what our darknesses are. In my opinion, comfort is the great slavery that binds the people in affluent America. We need to realize how subtly dangerous this slavery is and that it exists and has a whole lot of control.

And then we need to let hope set in in the dark places. Let it grow, let it build. It needs to force action and force a desperate desire to have hope come to fruition in love and peace.

I have started to feel hopeful in my dark places just recently. Only because it found me. Like it found Andy. It showed up in a casual conversation, a song, a whatever, and it stuck. It sat there for me. Now I need to understand its desperation to grow and build in my life and consequently in the lives around me. I think that hope is a love language of the Spirit of God. It moves on a whim, it changes generations and causes massive upheavals. But this sort of hope is desperate. It comes from desperation and in desperation takes seed and causes passionate, courageous, life-shift kind of action.

I think for me, its a process. We are all desperate for something at any given point. However we are not always aware that we are. I have come to begin to understand that hope is powerful for me when I get slammed by my desperation, when I get sick off it. That's when the petri dish starts to cultivate and create a cure for heart ailment.

I hope.

The start of this thing

So I have decided to make a blog to get my thoughts out and let anyone who is interested read them. I think there (at one time) might have been a group of people that might have wanted to read it.

I think I have been going through the craziest time of my life. Turbulent change, uncertainty, role-shift, spiritual searching and reformation, you name it and I think I have been probably experiencing it.

I will do this first post about me. Like I said I am changing and adapting to new life. Sometimes lighter, sometimes darker. I am learning to find out what my opinion of myself is at any point in time, what God's opinion of me is, and what others' opinions on Matt are. In the midst, I am trying to place importance on one or more or all of those.

Hopefully this writing will help me to be more aware of who I really am and move me towards who I am supposed to be.