When I first got that confirmation email that said I was going to attend Dad 2.016 I was excited. But as the months dragged on and Washington DC seemed so far away…the enthusiasm waned. Not that I wasn’t excited, but it’s hard to maintain those levels for the long haul.
Two days before DC, my wife was asking me if I was all excited to go. I was, but wasn’t. I had an idea of what was coming and really wanted to be there, but it just wasn’t the level of ‘Goody Goody Dumdrops!’ jumping up and down fist-pumping redneck rebel yellin’ kind of excitement. In fact, it was bordering on anxiety if I’m honest.
I was worried about ‘things’. I was flying to a city I’d never been before to see a group of people, most of whom I had only really met online, and the expectations were that it was going to be ‘life changing’. What if I didn’t get anything out of it? What if I got there and I ended up walking the halls largely alone because most of these guys had already met over the last four Dad 2.0 conferences? What if it wasn’t life changing?
I know what you’re thinking. And you’re right. I really did need to remove that bug from my chimney and just enjoy it. But first, I had to get to DC.
During the flight, I was reminded of the words of a famous former sports writer and all-around good guy: “Find the story.”
He covered baseball for a hundred years or so, and he said that even in the worst games, there was a story. And if you found that story, you had it made. So, I tried to figure out what my story would be.
My Florida butt landed in DC and with the temps at 30-something and like gale force winds…I was pretty sure my story was going to be.
“Florida Man Found Frozen to Death at the A Terminal at Reagan National Airport”
Luckily, I survived the cold and found my way to the hotel. After registering, the rest of the afternoon was a fight between me deciding to stay down in the lobby and talking to dudes or going back to my room and editing a video (as of this writing, it still hasn’t been edited) that ‘needed’ to be done. Why? Because I was feeling out of my comfort zone and wanted to retreat. Luckily, I wasn’t able to, and had a fantastic afternoon of looking at people’s name tags to introduce myself only to say, “Oh, damn…we already know each other!” like a thousand times.
But as I walked the halls and looked over the schedules, I was thinking “What is my story?”
The first night we had a reception that was put to me as “A big family reunion of people you’ve never met before.” And it was. The food was amazing. The beer was cold. And the conversation was un-ending. Well, that is until the reception ended. I was going to go out and karaoke with everyone, but talking to my wife on the phone, she noted that I was really starting to lose my voice. So, I didn’t go out and sat quietly at the bar resting my vocal cords wondering…”Tomorrow, when this starts, what’s going to be my story?”
That sports writer turned guru published his recap and in it he said that there were stories everywhere. And he was right! There were stories of horrific encounters in the Milwaukee Airport Men’s Room. There were stories of delayed and cancelled flights. There were stories about some of the things that happened the night before (you know, when I didn’t go karaoke-ing). And they were fun, but I was still searching for MY story. What was my takeaway from all of this.
In fact, right after breakfast, I thought my story was going to be
“Florida Man Killed by Angry Wife When He Loses DSLR Camera on First Day of Conference”
Don’t worry, the camera was found. There was a miscommunication with staff as one of them had found it and turned it into the registration desk.
Turns out, that amid all of the hugs, handshakes, laughs, stories, and tears, I had to wait until the last talk of the last day for my story.
Here it is:
Expectations vs. Reality
We were sitting in the main ballroom waiting for the final session of the day to begin. A gentleman I had spoken with earlier in the day walked over to one of the front tables and sat down. He looked out of place with his black wool jacket, full scarf and sunglasses. Then, he was called onto the stage. Derreck Kayongo walked out and opened his arms and smiled. The smile was one of the most genuine I’ve ever seen. It dominated his face and beamed out, infecting anyone near him.
His voice was pure velvet and his Ugandan accent was sublime. The calm and humor that poured from him left me hanging on his every word. I’m not going to lie, I’m not a calm person. I get angry more than I should. I have found myself living in frustration and seriously lacking any semblance of inner peace. So, I looked at this man and thought, “What can he possibly say that I need to hear?”
Mr. Kayongo’s talk started out sounding like a motivational speech. I thought, “Okay, sure. Whatever. I’ll listen.”
Then, he paused, and said, “For those who do not know me, let me tell you my story.”
You know how you expect to hear one thing and then get another? That’s what happened. His composure was so full of humor and grace, I was expecting to hear about some lush upbringing. I HAVE NEVER BEEN MORE WRONG ABOUT ANYTHING IN MY ENTIRE LIFE!
In the span of two minutes, the body count was up to nine…and I was sitting in my seat beginning to rethink my entire life. The tragedy he endured afterward was immense. His family went from being fairly well off to being refugees in one fell swoop.
I Stole the Soap
Long story short, he found his way to America where he was staying in a nice hotel, and he found that when he put the soap into his luggage, it was replaced the following day. After three days, he was wracked with guilt and went downstairs to confess his crime of stealing the soap because he could not afford for them to put the soap on his bill. He wanted to give the soap back. They thought he was insane.
Then, he asked about what happens to the soap that is only used once. They said it was thrown away.
It was his turn to think that they were insane.
So, he asked if he could take the soap they were going to throw away.
They went back to thinking he was insane.
When he told his wife he wanted to spend a large sum of money to purchase a machine to recycle the soap so he could send it back to Africa…she thought he was insane too.
The insane part was…he went ahead and bought the machine without his wife’s approval. As a husband, I was sitting in the audience thinking, “Holy crap, this guys really IS insane!”
His insanity created the Global Soap Project. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this man has literally saved thousands of lives just by recycling soap we throw away daily and sending to villages that don’t have access to soap the way we do.
By the time he was done, I was in tears. Why couldn’t anything like that happen to me? Why couldn’t I come up with an idea that would help people like that?
I know, I still haven’t got to my story yet. It happened right after this talk. The main hallway where all of the exhibitors were set up became a veritable free-for-all as sponsors were looking to unload stuff they didn’t want to carry back with them. I went to the DOVE Men+Care lounge (where I got a fantastic shave by the way!) and mentioned that I worked with Family Promise and would like to take some soap and shampoo to donate back to the homeless families they are helping.
The guy behind the counter just started shoving bottles toward me and said, “There’s more on the rack behind you.”
Then, I talked to the CEO of Hello Products (their toothpaste is awesome!) and when he heard about my working with Family Promise, he grabbed a bucket of toothbrushes and dumped them into a bag and said, “Grab some toothpaste too!”
So, I sat in my room packing up my bags the following morning. When I had the thought, “I just ‘stole’ a bunch of soap.” Tears welled up in my eyes as I drew a parallel to Derreck Kayongo’s talk.
On the way to the airport, I thought, “Sure, it was nice to grab a bag of stuff to help out homeless families. But, what happens next? And after that?”
I don’t know for sure. But what I do know is that I’m looking to do more than I’ve done before.
That’s why, today, I’m starting my “On the Way to San Diego” campaign! (Details to come…but it’s awesome!)
That sports writer turned guru who challenges me? Meet Carter Gaddis, Writer!
Want to know more about the Global Soap Project? Learn away!
Why am I helping Family Promise? Find out!
Also, Dad 2.0!