In 1998, I went to the University of California’s Graduate School of Journalism. In my very first class, I met Jessie Deeter, a talented filmmaker who would also become one of my best friends.
If you’ve seen Who Killed the Electric Car?, Revenge of the Electric Car, Spark: A Burning Man Story, or her work on Frontline (Liberia, Death by Fire), you know that she’s a badass. If you haven’t…trust me. She is.
A few years ago, she was in Tunisia when the first spark of the Arab Spring began. She started work on a documentary about the country where the uprisings began.
Now she needs your help to finish.
You can see their work so far:
You can listen to them tell you about the story in their own words:
Those who have spent any time with me know know that I draw a great deal from the life and the writing of David Foster Wallace. Without him ever knowing me, our lives became intertwined the day he committed suicide. The particulars of those events are relevant for this little story.
What is important is that I have found great comfort in his words in times when there was not a great comfort anywhere else.
My students have likely heard me reference “This is Water,” the title of DFW’s famous commencement speech at Kenyon College, at least once during their time in my class.This speech is, in just a few minutes, the best description I’ve ever heard of the meaning of life. (This piece meant so much to me that my wife and I made it our theme at our wedding in January.)
In the last few days, somebody released a fictionalized film version of DFW’s talk. I have watched it repeatedly, oftentimes with tears streaming down my face for reasons that, like the particulars from before, aren’t particularly relevant to you.
But I suspect if you watch it, you will draw your own meaning from it.
“The capital T truth is about life before death.”
Every year, the NFL celebrates the last player taken in the draft. For most, that celebration is the last time they will be in the limelight.
Not so for this player. Take 10 minutes to watch this video, and be reminded of what makes a life count.
This made little sense on the surface for a number of reasons: we had been together less than 4 months, we still lived in 2 locations, we were trying to sell her house and figure out where we were going to live, and we both spend a good deal of time running around.
Still, my beautiful bride-to-be let me start looking. I did some preliminary research, which included taking a test to see what breed of dog was most suited for me. I wanted a runner with lots of energy, and all the tests came back with one result: a brittany.
Once we settled on the breed, I figured getting a dog would be easy. After all, there are thousands of animals that need a home. I contacted the National Brittany Rescue and Adoption Network (NBRAN) in hopes of getting a dog in the next day or so.
We found out quickly that’s not how it works. Because these dogs are so high energy, prospective owners go through a little background check, receive an in-home visit, and must meet some minimum qualifications.
We passed the initial tests, and we started looking for our new dog. As Rebecca and I sat in bed flipping through pictures, we both saw this little guy:
As you may have heard, our classmate Jay Napier was in an accident a little while back. He’s currently going through an extensive recovery, and the Class of 1990 (spearheaded by Michelle Kruse and Chrissy Kenyon) has been raising money to help his family offset the costs.
You don’t need to have a PayPal account to contribue. You can sign in as a guest and use a credit or debit card as well.
If you’re not familiar with PayPal, here’s how it works. The basic overview is this: The site operates a bit like a waystation. You contribute money into a secure, virtual account, and then we can share those funds directly with Jay’s family. In this way, we don’t need to manage checks and cash. We can get the money to Jay’s family as quickly as possible.
If you have questions – or problems – you can contact me (Brad King), and we’ll figure this out.
I will keep everyone updated on activity within the account.
Thanks for any help.
Loveland’s Class of 1990
While I was running the brutal course yesterday, wondering why it was that I’d signed up for such a ridiculous race, I knew who I’d be thanking.
David and Sara, the couple who put this race on, and all the volunteers who set up, mark, and monitor the course are nothing short of amazing. They are all upbeat, happy, and encouraging along the way.
Unlike traditional marathons with thousands of volunteers and fanfare, ultra marathons take place in the middle of the woods and have few participants. The organizers and volunteers bust their collective humps to help a handful of crazies run up and down hills all day.
They deserve more than we could ever give them. This letter will go out in the mail on Monday, but I thought I’d post it now.
Dear David + Sara:
I wanted to send you – and all the volunteers – a letter expressing my heartfelt thanks for putting on such a great event. This is my second year running (and first finishing) the OPSF 50/50. This year – as with last year – I found everyone I spoke with to be genuinely kind and helpful. That is no small feat considering how much work goes into setting one of these events up, and how long the volunteers are asked to sit outside while the rest of the crazies run up and down hills all day.
Rebecca, Maxx the dog, and I stopped into the Castleton PetSmart this morning to see our dog trainer. She’s been working with us for several months, and we’ve grown quite fond of her.
While we’re taking a break from training because of life, we wanted her to know that we’d still swing by to see her.
She’s also the first person we wanted to thank during The Year of Thank You so yesterday I dropped off a letter Rebecca and I wrote. After Maxx was checked into Doggie Day Camp, I tracked down the manager and talked with him for a few minutes about our experience with the trainer and told him that I hoped he’d share what we said to him.
We found out today that he shared it with the entire staff.
When we came into the store, employees continually came up to us and thanked us for writing that letter about her and about the staff. We continually were told: “Nobody ever says thank you.”
Their comments weren’t said derisively. Instead, there was a longing about it as if they were also reminded that they didn’t say thank you enough either. What was supposed to be a quick hello to our trainer turned into a 35-minute meet-and-greet with the staff.
It was a pretty good morning, and an amazing reminder about the power we have to create the world that we want. Just a few little words brightened the day of the people who have helped us with Maxx the dog.
Here is the letter we gave to the general manager (with the name of the innocent party removed). And don’t forget that I’d love to hear your stories as well.
My name is Brad King, and my fiancée Rebecca Hutton and I wanted to write a letter to let you know about our wonderful experiences with <our trainer>, who has been our dog’s trainer for the past several months.
Too often we let good deeds and good people get pushed aside in the swirl of the day-to-day activities of life. While understandable, we believe that a general lack of acknowledgement subtly reinforces the idea that positive interactions are no different than negative interactions.
The 90-in-90 writing challenges I’ve posted have sometimes taken on a life on their own. Other times they’ve taken on my life. And other times still they have simply faded away.
Fortunately, I’m way more into process than product so the outcome of my personal missions is rarely the point.
For this challenge, though, the product is more important than the process. Let me explain: