I am certain that I have written it before, and undoubtedly will write it again, but I am a very lucky man. I have had the opportunity to meet some incredible people during my life. Last week, I was fortunate enough to meet another incredible person. In addition, I was reunited with a long-time dear friend, someone I respect and admire tremendously, and helped connect these two very special people.
I met Kevin Carroll because we had chosen him to speak at our annual customer conference. Kevin overcame tremendous adversity in his youth, after he and his two siblings were abandoned by their parents, was subsequently raised by his grandparents in Philadelphia and found his calling on a neighborhood playground. After picking up a red rubber ball and befriending a group of local children, Kevin found his drive and love of sports to be his connection into the community and his path, the underlying fabric of his purpose in life. After moving though a number of successful endeavors, Kevin now speaks about his past and is the epicenter of a program that provides encouragement and guidance to youth, in the form of encouragement for each of them to ‘find their red rubber ball’, their passion, their purpose. He generates inspiration and is an agent for social change on a global scale. You may find out much more about Kevin at http://kevincarrollkatalyst.com/.
I was also reunited with Manny Ohonme, after not seeing him for far too long. Manny also shares the story of overcoming childhood adversity. He was born into poverty in Nigeria and it wasn’t until he was nine years old that Manny was given his first pair of shoes by a stranger from Wisconsin. Inspired, Manny began to compete in sports, and attend school regularly. This ultimately led Manny to a basketball scholarship in North Dakota, and subsequently to a successful career. But Manny was really looking to impact the world on a larger scale and in a more direct manner, so he founded Samaritan’s Feet (http://www.samaritansfeet.org/), with the mission of giving 10 millions pairs of shoes to people in need over a 10 year period. His vision has grown to incredible heights, already having distributed over 3 million pairs of shoes and being sponsored by the likes of the NCAA, the NBA, UPS, Finish Line and Crocs. He is an incredible human being, with a beautiful vision and relentless dedication to making it happen.
There were two things in my head after being in the presence of Manny and Kevin. First, they made me realize that there are a relatively small number of people out there making a huge impact in the world. Maybe there are thousands, or maybe a few tens of thousands, of people like Manny and Kevin out there. They are completely dedicated to their ‘red rubber ball’: to their vision, to their passion, to their mission to make a difference on a grand scale. Obviously, they are supported by a much larger base of people that contribute and help in many ways, but it is these very few that are driving, pushing, making it happen day after day. They have a special calling, and they are creating positive change for millions of people. It is breathtaking to think about.
The second thing was much more subtle. It is that those creators, makers, drivers are cut from the same cloth. Maybe it is because of similar backgrounds, maybe it is something in their DNA, their faith, who knows … but they are intelligent, kind, passionate and charismatic leaders. What was truly amazing to observe was the scene of these two people meeting for the first time. It was electric to see them greet each other and interact. They immediately created a bond, as if they had known each other their whole lives, and on some level … they do know each other because they are wired the same, they have a common purpose, they are of a similar heart and mind. I was transformed from being a participant in the conversation to being an observer, not because they were being rude, but because the background and connection they share is something I simply do not know. As I watched them shake hands and talk, I began to visualize a global network of these people, a woven web of good and positive change, that extends, zigging and zagging through society … many times unobserved because it is so thin and delicate, but shouldn’t be underestimated because it is very powerful, well beyond its size and appearance. Observing this connection happen, this bond being created, made me feel wonderful, physically warmed, I couldn’t help but smile … as if some glorious multiplicative effect had just occurred. I am so thankful that I was paying attention, for I could have easily missed it.
Whatever we draw upon for faith or inspiration, we should remember that it comes in so many different forms; some are very traditional, and many are happening all around us. With all of the bad news we are bombarded with on a daily basis, we all need to remember to be a bit more open and observant. I was lucky to be at the right place, to see first-hand this wondrous web that exists, to watch one more connection being woven, and to take comfort and inspiration from the fact it is out there and doing so much good everyday.