Thursday, June 05, 2003

The Perfect Storm

That's how I think of the month just gone by (technically all of May and this first week of June). I've had a handful, but only a handful, of months like this in my life. And that means months that are half blessing and half curse, with no easy way to separate the two...

Let me explain. Personally, professionally and calling-wise, this has been a month of blurs, with time racing by, projects coming so fast and furious as to take one's breath away but others having to be pushed back to within an inch of their lives or beyond (requiring me to humbly seek forgiveness from a few folks). Both of my darling boys (Michael and Patrick) had the kind of months that they--and their mom and I--will cherish forever (more about which later). I was blessed with a monster web project that fell out of the sky on little notice and dominated the month's schedule, to the near exclusion of everything else (a serious problem, but an opportunity as well, like much of life). And that came just days (or was it hours?) after having just finished up one of my favorite smaller web projects, which was unique and special both for the quality of the company and the guy, Kim, as well as for the fact that I never got to meet him (in Chicago). So I got to stretch a new muscle I didn't know I had--which is to collaborate with someone long distance in sucking from them the vision of their baby in however they articulated it, and then converting it into words that bring alive their enterprise--or at least aspire to that. And the thrill of it was how basic meat-and-potatoes was this company, and yet how excited they got about what the web could do for them. Before we finished Phase 1, he was eagerly discussing aloud Phase 2.

That merely served as a warm-up for a call that came over the transom from an old, trusted friend, informing me that a $100-billion-plus company HQ'ed right here in our favorite city was in URGENT need of a single external resource to come camp out for a month in the offices and help them write and mostly edit large portions of their site, to be relaunched sometime soon. Two days after our initial conversation, the call came to get started. Try as I might, I just couldn't turn that down. But those other dropped balls usually juggled in the air are a painful issue...

Then there was the unbelievable spectacle of the Times/Jayson Blair seismic tremor, which has just today ended in the only way it could, by expelling the phony, authoritarian bully starving for affection (always a bad combination) masquerading for too long as the editor of the NYT editor (Howell Raines) and replacing him at least temporarily with someone who has the brains, sense and temperment for an adult job. And Joe Lelyveld has some fascinating Cleveland ties, of which I'll soon write. He spent some quality time here in his youth, while his father, the late (and nationally known civil rights pioneer) Rabbi Arthur Lelyveld oversaw Fairmount Temple and then served for a few years as a faculty member guessed it: John Carroll (sorry, Steve G.). I was charmed to spend several hours over a handful of sittings with the Rabbi in the late '80s, listening to his spell-binding narratives about the similarities of seemingly opposite faith traditions (Catholic and Jewish) and compelling war stories about Freedom Summer in the south, before humbly trying to squeeze this giant life into a profile worthy of the name.
And finally, of course, there was my fifth annual? (think I skipped a year in there somewhere) journalism event, where I'm blessed to be able to mobilize a network of smart, inquisitive people to engage in a group discussion about some seminal issue in journalism and community-building and related issues. Only this year, it got larger and more complex and so much more satisfying than in past years (which is saying something). Because this year, it turned into much more than a simple event--it helped galvanize (internally) and introduce (externally) a vital subculture to the larger community and spark conversation and radical coalition-building collaboration that's only just beginning, and will lead to who knows where.

And Goldberg, we will have to soon find that back office for the revolution (direct all questions about that item to our colleague SG...
In any event, this frenzied, crazed, fulfilling, maddening, emotionally overloaded month came to something of a culmination last night, in a church on the east side, within a stone's throw of JCU, and again the Jesuits played a central role.

As my oldest, Miguel as I called him, waited in line in the back of the church to file into the Church of the Gesu (or Jesus in Latin) to receive their diplomas signifying their 8th grade graduation, I quietly slipped back with a camera to drink in the sight. As I saw that boy-man standing confident and erect in his smart blue blazer that his mom found at rock bottom rates (but looking for all the world like it came off the rack from Brooks Brothers), wearing my own borrowed yellowish tie, I was nearly overcome with joy and pride and awe. For a moment, I almost had to gasp for air as I tried to choke back welling tears so I wouldn't even put a dent in his sublime enjoyment of the moment, written all over his face. And a moment later, learning that he and a classmate were chosen to say a quick word of welcome to the giant audience, I did lose it.

And as Fr. Snow--the young Jesuit priest who always reaches out and touches the kids and compells their attention with his deft blend of personal storytelling and narrative flair, using stock characters from his childhood or even G.I. Joe dolls for show and tell as the situation requires--began his sermon, the audience grew quiet and leaned in to listen.
"Go out into the world, as the best that Gesu has to offer, and be men and women for others," he said.
And in that moment of pride and power and possibility, I felt humbled by the rushing force of the realization that this month full of highs and lows, joys and exciting new ventures, had just ended on the highest, most appropriate note possible.


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