Posts tagged “Compassion

I feel just fine … how about you? And the future of journalism.

“Communications is technology.”

Or something like that.

feelingsThat’s what my daughter said excitedly as she told me about her new english major courses at George Mason University.  The excitement in her voice and the enthusiasm in her eyes made her impromptu presentation contagious.

She took me to the creation of Jonathan Harris and Sep Kanvar.

It is a site called We Feel Fine.

Check it out.  I don’t know if it is the future of communications and literature.  But it is certainly fascinating.  It is literature, research, ethnography, technology, emotions, and crowd-sourced literature all rolled into one.

According to the site:

Since August 2005, We Feel Fine has been harvesting human feelings from a large number of weblogs. Every few minutes, the system searches the world’s newly posted blog entries for occurrences of the phrases “I feel” and “I am feeling”. When it finds such a phrase, it records the full sentence, up to the period, and identifies the “feeling” expressed in that sentence (e.g. sad, happy, depressed, etc.). Because blogs are structured in largely standard ways, the age, gender, and geographical location of the author can often be extracted and saved along with the sentence, as can the local weather conditions at the time the sentence was written. All of this information is saved.

The result is a database of several million human feelings, increasing by 15,000 – 20,000 new feelings per day. Using a series of playful interfaces, the feelings can be searched and sorted across a number of demographic slices, offering responses to specific questions like: do Europeans feel sad more often than Americans? Do women feel fat more often than men? Does rainy weather affect how we feel? What are the most representative feelings of female New Yorkers in their 20s? What do people feel right now in Baghdad? What were people feeling on Valentine’s Day? Which are the happiest cities in the world? The saddest? And so on.

And so with that, I’ll say this, hoping that at some point some of these nuggets are harvested by the We Feel Fine site and that my contribution adds to someone’s day and another person’s science.

I feel good.  At least today I feel that way.  There have been many days in the past when I’ve felt bad.  Perhaps even miserable.  But today’s a good one.  So far.  You never know.  I could be feeling crummy this afternoon.  Something crazy could happen.  I could remember something stupid and start feeling blue.  Feelings are that way.  Very capricious things those feelings are.  But right now, I feel good.  And the fact that I’m feeling good, feels good.

Have a nice day.

Actions Always Speak Louder Than Words

This being Sunday, I thought a bit of theology combined with brand communication might be in order.

The lesson for this morning:  actions ALWAYS speak louder than words.

This is true in life.  This is true for brands.

A bit of background.

jamesLast Sunday I started on a series of email exchanges with friends on things theological.  What prompted the online discussion was a close friends’ bridling at the Pontiff’s message to the Kennedy family following Senator Ted Kennedy’s death.   The discussion took many different twists and turns and involved several people — some you’d recognize — but ended (or last left off at …) in a discussion of faith and works.  The closing observations even included the catchy and often derided “WWJD” or “what would Jesus do” acronym — and this favorably by a theologian of much repute seemingly not given to religious market hoopla.

For the un-initiated, the Christian theological debate over faith vs. works is a lively one.

The proponents of the latter inevitably look to and cite the book of James, a small book tucked away amidst the Pauline epistles.  The author is thought to be the half-brother of Jesus and some believe was written to counter any misperception from Paul’s preaching that good works aren’t important.  (If you’re REALLY interested you can look up “legalism” and “antinomianism“.)

Basically, James says that faith without works is a bunch of hooey.  To prove his point (and my favorite part of the book) James writes in a prose laced with criticism something to the effect of the following:

“If someone is poor, hungry and needs clothes for the family and all you do is give them a smiley face, buck them up with some cheap words of encouragement, slap them on the back and say … ‘don’t worry … be happy.”  Well if you actually think that by doing that you’re really helping that person you’re an idiot.   Well ok.  You’re either an idiot or a hypocrite.  Because your actions always speak louder than your words — words being always cheap and oftentimes wrong (James also has a lot to say about that!).

Want to do something that will really help the poor and the hungry?  How about getting up off your fat, lazy ass and giving people something to eat?  How about dipping into your pocketbook and buying them some clothers?  Stop all the idle, hang-wringing, self-indulgent chit chat.  DO SOMETHING!!!

Or something to that effect.  Perhaps not that strident but I think I’m directionally correct.

Which leads me to the Washington Redskins.

washington_redskinsAccording to reports this week, the Washington Redskins are suing those season ticket holders who are unemployed, desolate, and out-of-luck or who otherwise, because of recent circumstances, can’t fulfill their contractual multi-year, thousands of dollars season ticket obligations.

Based on the reports in the Washington Post, among those being sued by the Redskins are unemployed grandmothers, recently laid-off and divorced moms and dads, as well as those who’ve lost their life savings to illness.

So you sue them.

Somebody should tell the Hogettes that they better keep their day jobs.

Last I knew there was a waiting list for Redskins season tickets.

Times must be really tough.

But not really.

According to Forbes, the Washington Redskins club is the second-most valuable, clocking in at an estimated $1.5 billion in value.  Snyder bought the club for $750 million.  Pretty good return, no?

Someone at the Redskins ought to wake up.  You can play “Hail to the Redskins” as much as you want.  You can market all the maroon and gold memorabilia that you want.  You can rent out players to civic and community events.

But at the end of the day it is what you do that matters.  Who wants to be a brand that sues its fans when they’re down and out?

Actions speak louder than words.

Why Senator Kennedy is a role model for us all

Senator Kennedy a role model?  Sure you’d have to have been living under a rock over the past few days not to hear or read about the public service accolades, the interest in the poor, the legislative accomplishments.  But what about the getting kicked out of Harvard part?  The carousing and cavorting?  Chappaquiddick?  What about all the bad stuff and the personal flaws — many if not most of which were on display?

Well yes.  There was all that.  And perhaps even some more.  But reflecting on Senator Kennedy’s life — and life in general — I suggest we all reflect on our own short-comings.  They may not be as big or as egregious or as oversized as what we saw in the youngest Kennedy son.  But if we’re honest with ourselves we’ll find our own blind spots, our own severe missteps, our own poor judgement — ours  just didn’t get all the attention that Senator Kennedy’s did.

ted_kennedySome may focus on the flaws of Ted Kennedy.  But whether you are right or left, conservative or liberal, religious or secular, what should him a role model for us all was his unique combination of two things:  genuine personal compassion combined with a strong work ethic.

I live in Washington DC.  In this town you often find one absent the other.  People who overflow with words of caring and love but are too lazy to act on that compassion.   They say the right words and perhaps even have the right motivation.  They just don’t do much.  Then you have the workaholics who lose themselves in their jobs and their causes.  They are so wrapped up in their own little world that they forget that there’s real people, real individuals, real folk out there who just need some help.

Mr. Kennedy was not a lazy man.  He was by all accounts, tireless, indefatigable, unstoppable.  And he found a way to put that energy to help real people with real life problems.  I’ve been stunned by the sheer number of stories that people have shared with me about Senator Kennedy’s personal compassion.  Everyone seems to have a Joe Biden story.  A story where Ted Kennedy took an extra step or lent an extra hand when he found out a person was dealing with tragedy.  Recently a friend and colleague shared with me the following story:

You know the connection I have to both 9/11 and the Senator so I took note of this story I saw about Senator Kennedy and the families from Massachusetts – it was reported for the first time shortly after his illness was disclosed.

Within a couple of days after the 9/11, Senator Kennedy had called every Massachusetts family that had lost a someone.  There were 176.  Even by the standards of exceptional elected officials, you and I know that’s a lot of calls.

A few weeks later one widow, Cindy McGinty, was informed by the Navy that because she could not locate her husband’s discharge papers, an honor guard would not be sent to his funeral.  Michael McGinty was a insurance executive in one of the towers and a Naval Academy graduate.  She called Senator Kennedy.  The next day someone from the Navy called and said a Navy honor guard would be sent to the funeral of Michael McGinty, USN, Rtd.

As David Frum reports, Sen. Kennedy wrote a personal note to every family that lost somebody.  He also wrote a letter to every family every year after that because as he said, the memory doesn’t go away.

A few months after 9/11, he pulled all the federal agencies together in Massachusetts to meet with the Massachusetts 9/11 families to make sure everything was being done that could be done.  At that meeting, Cindy McGinty, who had two pre-teen boys, said she was overwhelmed and was having trouble putting one foot in front of the other.  Kennedy made sure each family in Massachusetts was assigned an advocate who would do as much or as little as the families needed.

A year later McGinty said she didn’t know how Kennedy found out, but one of her sons was having trouble adjusting.  Kennedy invited her and her two boys out to Hyannis Port for a sail one Saturday and they sailed from 11 to 4 (absolutely no press was to be told).  He was to meet with presidential candidate, John Kerry, that afternoon and reportedly kept him waiting.  Later he sent to Mrs. McGinty and her boys photographs and a picture — one he painted — of the day sailing with inscriptions saluting them for their courage.

Senator Kennedy’s life and death is a reminder of those compassionate acts we’ve left undone … those people we’ve forgotten to care for.

Senator Kennedy has passed.  But we’ve still got some time left.