So I am sitting at a table, in NYC, at a private party. A table for eight. On my left was a world famous entrepreneur; to his left, one of the richest men in the universe; to his left a president (of a country); next to him, his wife; next to her the wife of the host of the party, one of the largest media organizations in the world and to my right, a queen. First of all I need to confess that throughout the dinner, and the entire four day period I was hanging out in places like this and doing things life this I felt like Jed Clampett of “Beverley Hillbillies” fame. You know, the poor mountaineer guy, who had barely kept his family fed, who, while he was out hunting for some food, shot at some and hit crude oil instead. Then, with his newfound riches, moved to Beverly Hills and began interacting with the rich and famous. More than once, I was asking myself “What in the world was a person who came from where I came from, (humble beginnings would be an understatement) doing in the places I found myself in, talking to people I had only ever read about as if I had every right to be there?
What WAS I doing in a place like that, having the experiences I was having, doing what I was doing, talking to the people I was talking to? I had been asked to accompany a client, in the role of their “chief advisor” to New York for a few days. If I had any clue that my saying “yes” would have involved all of what I was about to experience I would have politely declined. My client was going to New York as a critical player in their role as spokesperson, for a whirlwind of high level gatherings over the next few days with dozens leaders in the world of politics, private enterprise, entertainment, government, and social causes, all on a global scale. Over the course of a few days I attended a dizzying number of myriad events.
When originally asked, I had imagined that I would, as I have in the past, helped get their speeches ready, their facts straight, help them manage the pressure of being so often in the spotlight, protect them. I never imagined that I would actually have a literal “seat at the table”. Apparently the only “ticket” I needed that gave me instant credibility with those whose world I entered was that I was introduced as my client’s “chief advisor”. That is all they needed to know it seemed. If I was ok with my advisee, then they were ok with me.
As impressive as all that was, the reason they were all gathered in that place at that time was even more stunning to me. They were all gathered there to make the world a better place. Period. One gentleman had invented mosquito netting, impregnated with an anti-malarial material that was saving an estimated 3,000,000 lives a year. Add a personal drinking straw that makes any pool of water 99% safe. Another who, as supervisor of one of the largest private foundations in the world, is sponsoring sustainable food by supporting a process that takes the bitterness away from coffee beans and the gluten out of wheat so that more food can be more available for more people. A famous man from the entertainment world who is literally, personally, living in the garbage dumps in the Far East saving the children there. Six groups of young collegians from around the world who had demonstrated proven processes to bring education to 20 million people in the poorest areas on earth by 2020. A 13 year old Guatemalan girl who’s activist promotion of education for young girls about their bodies has influenced millions of young girls. A United Nations program that has stopped in its tracks, the childbirth mortality of young mothers in refugee camps. There were many other programs, processes, and people. It was an amazing eye-opening experience. I had no idea that there was so much “good” being done out there, by the people that our popular culture tends to make villains. Not of them was promoting who they were. They were, rather humbly it seemed to me, just telling their story to each other.
Perhaps the most amazing thing that I experienced was that there was absolutely no doubt in any of the people I met that they could influence and in fact are already changing the world and the experience of human beings in it. There was no begging. No, “if only we had more… (Money time, government support, people to help, etc.) then, we could…..” They were all just doing IT. Hearing all the stories. Meeting all the people. Having all the experiences left me wanting to help. Not out of a sense of obligation, but out of a sense of wanting to be a part of things that are literally, already changing the world. I also felt sorry that I have never heard of all the good that was being done.
There are many things in this world that are very bad for human beings. I have a sense that it could and would be a lot worse without the ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls I met who were busy doing IT.
By the way, back to the dinner party. I didn’t each much. I didn’t know what utensils to use (I did watch others), I did pick at my food (I couldn’t tell what it was because the menu was in high level restaurantese, a language that I don’t know and that I thought it impolite to pull out my phone and google it, like I do when I am back home). I just appeared to be a light eater. Near the end of the dinner, the queen, who was sitting next to me said, “I have heard them speak of who you are and what you do, but I know why you are here with them, I felt it when I sat down; you have a calmness about you”. I thought, “If you only knew, it’s really the Jed Clampett in me that has learned, that when in doubt, keep my mouth shut and listen……”