Give People a Chance in Their Darkest Hour

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. In hopes of helping to raise money and prevent unnecessary deaths, I am reposting my original thoughts from two years ago when Trey Pennnington died.

When a suicide happens it is a horrific moment in time. Fellow bloggers Olivier Blanchard and Margie Clayman joined me today to fundraise for IMALive’s 24-7 suicide prevention chat service in memory of Trey Pennington, who passed away almost two years ago to this day.

Our personal goal is to raise $10,000 so we can provide 24-7 online crisis chat services from IMAlive (my wife Caitlin’s client) to those in their darkest hour. As of publishing, more than $30,000 has been raised via several fundraisers, so it’s not too much of a stretch.

There are prizes, too:

$25 Deck of Suicide Prevention Playing Cards
$50 KBHC Gift Pack (Deck of cards, UV Sunglasses, Stress Ball, Frisbee Flyer, Blue October Tee Shirt)
$100 Frank Warren Signed Galley Page, free eBook of Geoff Livingston’s novel Exodus
$250 Complete Blanchard/Livingston book set
$500 Autographed Journey T-Shirt
$1000 Complete autographed Frank Warren book set

Please give what you can. And you can find that Trey Pennington post below the donation widget.

Precious Life and Losing Yourself

Soleil and Dino Walker

Life is so precious. Having a child who smiles and laughs at the simplest of new things awakens such a deep profound joy in your heart. It makes you realize how important life and love is. A fire burns inside of you to protect those you care about, and to make sure they live as joyfully as possible.

Earlier today, we lost a good man, Trey Pennington. The level of shock and mourning online is unprecedented in this community, and there is good reason for that. Trey was one of the most encouraging, kind people on the interwebs. He was a good soul who benefited many people’s lives, mine included.

Trey

Trey wrote on my wall yesterday, sharing a small success with one of my clients in encouraging fashion, as was his way. It seemed very much in character. It has already been said, but like Olivier, I am just heartbroken.

As with many people I associate with online, I did not meet Trey in real life, but we talked a bit over the years. He shared his frustrations with writing a book, and we both had a common dislike for some of the behaviors popularity-seeking top bloggers exhibited. But Trey would always gently encourage me to stay focused, and keep using my online skills for good.

And like Trey, I also went through a separation, and it just devastated me, causing a deep depression. We were fortunate, and worked it out. Two years later last October, Miss Soleil joined our family. Caitlin was 39 and I was 38.

To a great extent, my troubles were caused by an overvaluing of my import online. Looking back I can see how lucky I was to have recovered what had carelessly been thrown away. Now I am blessed enough to be a father, my most important job in life.

The circumstances of Trey’s death don’t matter to me. What is important is the encouragement and the reminders, which I will choose to keep and remember. Further, I will pass them on. Trey’s legacy will live.

It’s so easy to lose yourself in this rat race online. Twitter followers, Google+ suggested recommended list, on and on. And the way some people lord their following and sense of self-import cannot help but feel like an attack on your worth in a faux attention economy.

Maybe you have been fortunate enough to become well known and liked. That can be a Faustian trap, luring your mind and heart to chase false idols.

But know this, friends, it’s bullshit. It really is. An egregious sense of import takes hold, and we become distracted from what really matters, those loved ones who are near to us that rely on our daily contributions. There are also those who are more distant, but look to us to lead, or to share our experience, strength and hope.

No one will remember you for your blog rank or your follower count. They will remember you for the impact you made in real lives. This is what matters. Sometimes we have to make that impact even if it is not known or recognized. Compassion and giving is not about fame. It is about making the world a better place.

At times we cannot help, but become lost. Grace can save us. In the worst scenarios, even that is not enough. Darkness can take us. But those we have impacted will remember the kind acts.

Sometimes when I hold Soleil and play with her or drop her off at day care, it brings tears to my eyes. She is here in spite of my poor judgment three years ago. I know how lucky I am, and I am so grateful.

Hold your loved ones this Labor Day weekend. Feel and know in the deepest part of your soul that esteem is a derivative of doing esteemable things, not from winning the attention rat race. Understand how precious life is, and spread compassion. It may just make a difference where you least expect it.

In Gratitude, with Love

Us with Soleil in the Pumpkin Patch

It’s been an amazing year. It has had big ups and big downs. In short, life was in session.

In hindsight, there is so much to be grateful for as we roll into the holiday season. With Thanksgiving upon us, I’d like to express my gratitude for many things over the past year.

First of all this was the magical year of Soleil, my one year old daughter who has blessed our lives. From watching her first open her eyes regularly to the first time she said “Dada” to her first steps, becoming a father has literally been the best thing that has ever happened to me. I am so very grateful that Caitlin and I are together with this wonderful addition to our now three person family.

Releasing my second book, Welcome to the Fifth Estate, was a good experience, in large part because of you. Thank you to all the friends and punks who helped make the book a success, whether it was allowing me to guest post, offering me an opportunity to speak, sharing your reviews, or simply being supportive. Book marketing is hard!

Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington was an incredible experience. I am still processing it, but it certainly was profound, a pinnacle moment both professionally and spiritually. To be able to give back to my hometown for the past 20 years, and raise $2 million to help 1200 nonprofits all in one day (though it took six months of planning and work), well, it’s really humbling. Truly, something to be grateful about.

So many people worked to make this happen, but in particular I’d like to offer special thanks to all of my clients and friends at Razoo, Kathy Whelpley at the Community Foundation, and Kerry Morgan, Karyn Gruenberg, Stacia Klim and Elliot Gruber at the United Way. Thanks to all of our partners who helped get the word out. And thank you to the Washington nonprofit community — causes and donors alike — for coming together in a collective day of action.

Beth Kanter and Kami Huyse let me out of Zoetica early to attend to my house, a result of the above linked flood. Thank you.

In that same vein, Gini Dietrich carried my writing load over the past two months as I grappled with the flood and kept Give to the Max work moving forward. It’s so refreshing to work with an author who plays team ball and helped a partner that could not execute, literally putting the project on her back. Now it is my turn to write extensively, but Gini deserves a big thank you for helping me.

All of my friends (Dennis, Jimmy, David, Pernilla) and family in my personal life, people who don’t dig or just simply use social media in a normal fashion, deserve a special shout out. Whether it was direct help, friendly words, or an arm around the shoulder you helped me make it through a depressing time.

My online friends and readers, you, too reached out to me during the flood and ensuing recovery. I thank you so much for this. Every ounce of support helped me through a dark time.

Speaking of dark times, a year ago my friend George Giammittorio passed away due to depression. Earlier this year we as a community lost Trey Pennington. No matter how despairing the times may be — and for some the holidays are the darkest of times — there is always hope and love. If you are suffering and there is only darkness, please consider calling the National Hopeline.

2011 is not over. A trip to Austin is in order, there is a commencement speech for the Virginia Commonwealth University Mass Communications graduation to write and deliver, and the holiday giving season — a crucial time for causes — is upon us. And yes, it is time to catch up on book writing, and thus, I am taking the next week off from the social web and will return on the 28th for the final stretch.

Though we are not done with the year, one can never be too early in expressing gratitude. So thank you, and happy Thanksgiving.

Precious Life and Losing Yourself

Soleil and Dino Walker

Life is so precious. Having a child who smiles and laughs at the simplest of new things awakens such a deep profound joy in your heart. It makes you realize how important life and love is. A fire burns inside of you to protect those you care about, and to make sure they live as joyfully as possible.

Earlier today, we lost a good man, Trey Pennington. The level of shock and mourning online is unprecedented in this community, and there is good reason for that. Trey was one of the most encouraging, kind people on the interwebs. He was a good soul who benefited many people’s lives, mine included.

Trey

Trey wrote on my wall yesterday, sharing a small success with one of my clients in encouraging fashion, as was his way. It seemed very much in character. It has already been said, but like Olivier, I am just heartbroken.

As with many people I associate with online, I did not meet Trey in real life, but we talked a bit over the years. He shared his frustrations with writing a book, and we both had a common dislike for some of the behaviors popularity-seeking top bloggers exhibited. But Trey would always gently encourage me to stay focused, and keep using my online skills for good.

And like Trey, I also went through a separation, and it just devastated me, causing a deep depression. We were fortunate, and worked it out. Two years later last October, Miss Soleil joined our family. Caitlin was 39 and I was 38.

To a great extent, my troubles were caused by an overvaluing of my import online. Looking back I can see how lucky I was to have recovered what had carelessly been thrown away. Now I am blessed enough to be a father, my most important job in life.

The circumstances of Trey’s death don’t matter to me. What is important is the encouragement and the reminders, which I will choose to keep and remember. Further, I will pass them on. Trey’s legacy will live.

It’s so easy to lose yourself in this rat race online. Twitter followers, Google+ suggested recommended list, on and on. And the way some people lord their following and sense of self-import cannot help but feel like an attack on your worth in a faux attention economy.

Maybe you have been fortunate enough to become well known and liked. That can be a Faustian trap, luring your mind and heart to chase false idols.

But know this, friends, it’s bullshit. It really is. An egregious sense of import takes hold, and we become distracted from what really matters, those loved ones who are near to us that rely on our daily contributions. There are also those who are more distant, but look to us to lead, or to share our experience, strength and hope.

No one will remember you for your blog rank or your follower count. They will remember you for the impact you made in real lives. This is what matters. Sometimes we have to make that impact even if it is not known or recognized. Compassion and giving is not about fame. It is about making the world a better place.

At times we cannot help, but become lost. Grace can save us. In the worst scenarios, even that is not enough. Darkness can take us. But those we have impacted will remember the kind acts.

Sometimes when I hold Soleil and play with her or drop her off at day care, it brings tears to my eyes. She is here in spite of my poor judgment three years ago. I know how lucky I am, and I am so grateful.

Hold your loved ones this Labor Day weekend. Feel and know in the deepest part of your soul that esteem is a derivative of doing esteemable things, not from winning the attention rat race. Understand how precious life is, and spread compassion. It may just make a difference where you least expect it.