Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Your Power to Reinvent a Life

Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God - Bob Pierce

The #1206 “fiction” series continues …

It was a cold day in NYC as Gabriel stamped his feet in a vain effort to stay warm. He had just come from a meeting of colleagues and friends to thank them for completing their annual Christmas project.  “Wow”, he thought, “$365,000 raised to provide Christmas gifts to 763 battered women and children hiding in shelters.  My network is …….. incredible.”

His eyes started to mist up as he thought about their generosity and he stamped his feet again in the cold.

As if reading his thoughts, the lady standing next to him at the bus stop said, “Public transit always seems like a good option until you’re freezing your buns off”, causing Gabriel to laugh. 

“You’re reading my mind”, he said as he turned to smile at her.

As he cast his eyes upon her, his eyes widened slightly.at the sight of her winter coat.  “That’s a very nice coat”, he said.

“Thank you”, she replied as she smiled, “I’m told that it’s a very exclusive coat available in only one store in America.”

Gabriel was still slightly in shock as he looked at her.  “You don’t know where you got your coat from?”, he asked.

“Well”, she said as she looked down at her boots, “It’s a little complicated and embarrassing.”

“What do you mean?”, asked Gabriel, feeling his curiosity rise.

“Well”, she continued, “I don’t know who bought the coat.”

“How is that possible?”, asked Gabriel as he sensed something developing around them.

“Well”, she said quietly, “I received this coat Christmas before last while I was in a battered woman’s shelter.  My soon-to-be ex-husband had been beating me up on a regular basis and one night I grabbed my kids and left.  A friend turned us on to a battered woman’s shelter and we spent that Christmas in hiding from my then-husband.”

“Wow”, said Gabriel, “I’m very sorry to hear that.  So someone at the shelter gave you the coat?”

“Sort of”, she replied, “One of the staff asked me one day what would my kids and I would like for Christmas and I thought she was joking.  I gave her a list and she left.  On Christmas morning, the lady came into our room with a bunch of wrapped gifts for myself and my kids.  When I opened my gifts, one of them was this coat.”

Gabriel swallowed hard as he listened but said nothing.

“Funny thing”, she said, “Up to then, I had the feeling that I wasn’t worth much and there wasn’t much hope for my future or the future of my kids.  As I saw what was happening that Christmas, I realized that someone out there actually thought I mattered.”

She paused, took her glasses off and wiped her eyes.

“Do you know what it’s like to believe that you don’t matter?", she asked Gabriel.

“It must have been quite difficult”, Gabriel replied, relieved that his sunglasses hid his own misty eyes.

“It was but do you know what?  That coat changed my Life”, she said.

“How so?”, asked Gabriel.

“Well”, she replied, “When it sank in that I mattered, it occurred to me that I had been given a chance for a new start.  I took a look at my situation and realized that not only was this not the end for us but that we were worthy of everything we wanted and with that, I set out to create a new Life for myself and my kids.  Here I am almost two years later and our Life is starting to take off.  I have found someone who is very good to me, my divorce is almost final, I have a great job and my kids are the happiest they have been in a long time.”

She paused and wiped her eyes again.

“All because of a silly coat”, she said quietly.

“It’s not a silly coat”, said Gabriel as he swallowed hard, “It’s a very nice coat.”

“Thank you”, she said as she smiled.

There was a brief moment of silence before she turned to him again.  “Do you know what the most amazing thing of all is?”, she asked.

“What?”, asked Gabriel.

“I can’t thank the person who did this for us”, she replied, “I have no idea who it is and have been told I will never know.  I feel weird that I cannot thank the person who created a new Life for myself and my kids.”

“That is interesting indeed”, said Gabriel, “What would you say to the person if you know you were standing beside them?”

“Wow”, replied the woman as she contemplated Gabriel’s question, “I honestly don’t know.  I think I would be so overwhelmed with gratitude that I might find myself unable to speak at all.  Many times when I am walking around, I find myself imagining who of the people around me might be the one.”

She paused for a moment.

“I hope someday I get to thank them for what they have done for me and my kids”, she said quietly.

“I believe that someday you will get that opportunity”, Gabriel said, smiling.

“You think so?”, replied the woman. 

Gabriel nodded but said nothing, unable to respond as he felt his emotions overwhelming him.

Looking down the street, she saw her bus coming and exclaimed, “Finally!”

Gabriel followed her gaze and said, “Lucky you.  That’s not my bus.”

As the bus stopped in front of them, she turned to Gabriel and thanked him for the conversation.  “I hope you and your family have a great Christmas”, she said, “Thank you for listening to my story.”

“Thank you for sharing it”, replied Gabriel, “I wish you and your two boys a very Merry Christmas as well.”

She smiled, turned and stepped up into the bus. 

As she flashed her monthly pass to the driver, something occurred to her. 

“How did he know I have two boys?”, she asked.

“Excuse me?”, asked the bus driver.

She turned towards the door of the bus and noticed that the man had his phone up to his ear.

“Remember that special coat we ordered for the battered women’s shelter a couple of years ago?”, she heard him ask the person on the other end of the conversation.

She gasped ……

…… the door of the bus closed …..

….. and the bus drove away as she watched the man fade into the distance.

To be continued.

© 2015 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved

Addendum - December 23, 2015

When I see videos like this (Warning – VERY disturbing content), with tens of thousands of likes and shares on Facebook, I wonder what kind of society we are creating.  Is it any wonder that so many people are desensitized when it comes to violence against women? [Author note - April 22, 2016: The offending video appears to have been taken down. It was a video of a man in his twenties beating a woman in the head with a metal collapsible chair. I don't know what was more disturbing, the fact that the video was made at all, that it was distributed or that it had hundreds of thousands of Facebook likes.]

We can and must do MUCH better.


This story is a fictional musing based on an actual project.  This year, my colleagues and I raised $365,000 US and purchased gifts for 763 battered women and children in shelters.  The logistics are complex but the result is always worth it.

The project works like this.

We contact battered women’s shelters every Christmas and ask them to ask their guests what their needs are for Christmas.  They gather a list, send it to us and we fill it.  Some women refuse our request for pride reasons and many tell us to buy stuff for their kids only. 

The lists are often a mix of the practical (like coats and boots) as well as fun stuff like toys and games for their kids.

We are not allowed to see or meet these people for security reasons.  It is possible, from the shelter’s perspective, that we may in fact be “looking” for someone to report their location back to a batterer.  I have also been told that we would recognize some of the women, being wives of politicians, well-known businessmen, entertainers and the like and such recognition could produce complexity for them.

As I thought about the conclusion of this year’s project, I wondered – “Whatever becomes of the people that we have helped over the years.  Do they fall back into old traps and broken relationships or do they turn their Life around, having been shown that they matter by a complete stranger whom they will never meet?  Do they look at every stranger in the years that follow and wonder if that person is “the one””

I chose to believe the better reality when this story came to mind.

Find a way to help someone in need.

You NEVER know what outcome it will produce.

Series Origin

This series, a departure from my usual musings, is inspired as a result of conversations with former senior advisors to multiple Presidents of the United States, senior officers in the US Military and other interesting folks as well as my own professional background as a Wall St. / Fortune 25 strategy advisor and large-scale technology architect.

While this musing is just “fiction” (note the quotes) and a departure from my musings on technology, strategy, politics and society, as a strategy guy, I do everything for a reason and with a measurable outcome in mind. :-)

This “fictional” musing is a continuation of the #1206 series noted here.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Christmas and the Gifts That Cannot Be Bought–A Repost

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. – William Arthur Ward

You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving. - Robert Louis Stevenson

Sharing this story has become an annual tradition for me at this time of year and so, by popular demand, I share it once again (with a few minor modifications).

Some years ago when Harry Jr. was very young, I had pulled into a Toys R Us parking lot in New Jersey on Christmas Eve to buy him more "stuff".  Even though my son had so much stuff that he rivalled Toys R Us in inventory, for some reason I felt like I had not purchased enough for him for Christmas.

Just before I stepped out of my vehicle, a story came on my favorite National Public Radio station (WNYC in New York) and something about it caught my ear.

For the next 10 minutes, I sat in silence and listened to the story.  When the story was over, I started my truck and drove out of the parking lot in silence.

I had received an important message about Christmas when I needed to hear it.  The “teacher” always appears when the student is ready and my Christmases have never been the same since.

Of the many traditions I have at Christmas, there are two that I find to be important:

  1. I always listen to the story I heard on WNYC at least once.
  2. I always share the story with others and encourage them to listen to it.

The story I am referring to can be found here and in the video below.

Henry Faulk–Christmas Story

Listen to the story closely and after it has moved your heart, follow your instinct and allow it to guide you in what you do next.

The Nature of Gifts

When we are young, we look forward to the gifts that Santa will bring and that family and friends will give us.

As we move into adulthood, we learn to appreciate the opportunity to give gifts to those who are important to us as well as those to whom we send gifts to anonymously.  At the same time, we are bombarded by commercials encouraging us to buy as much as we can for others and to treat ourselves as well to “small” items such as new automobiles, expensive vacations, etc.

While the ability to give and receive gifts in difficult times is a privilege, there are many gifts around us that no one could ever afford if a price tag reflecting their true value were applied to them – gifts such as but not limited to love, friendship, camaraderie, companionship and service.

And as I reflect upon my personal and professional Life and I remember the great people who have come into my Life, whether to lift me, enrich me, teach me, learn from me or test me, I realize that some of the greatest gifts that I have received in my day-to-day Life, in addition to my faith, are those people who have made me a better person.

Where would I be without those people who knowingly or unknowingly taught me, influenced me, guided me, lifted me or corrected me?

More importantly, how can I thank so many people for such valuable gifts?

In truth, it would take as long to thank them (or longer) than the years I have remaining, but I suspect for many of them, it would be gratitude enough if I took the opportunity to make sure that I do for others as others have done for me.

Difficult times are with us and before us.  As you take time during the holidays to buy tangible gifts for others, don’t forget the value of your intangible gifts.  Gifts such as love, kindness, friendship and support are much more valuable, last much longer, never break, never tarnish, never need batteries, are always the right size, are always in style and will affect far more people than the tangible ones.

And unlike many gifts that never fit, these gifts are never returned as undesired and in fact, are often returned in kind or paid forward (oftentimes in multiples of the original gift).

When we receive such intangible gifts, we know their importance and their value.

Let’s remember this when we choose to put these gifts “under the tree” of someone who could use them this holiday season or any time of the year.

As you celebrate this holiday season, please remember those who are not as fortunate as you are.  There is more than enough love to go around – we just need to make the effort to share it unconditionally.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Happy EID or Merry Yule.

However you celebrate these days, cherish them.

And help others find a way to cherish them as well.

In service and servanthood, love and gratitude.  Create a great holiday experience for yourself and others, because merely having one is too passive an experience.