Today I saw a dad and his one-year old son playing.
The son was toddling around, and Dad was there being encouraging and lending a watchful eye. In that moment, nothing bad could happen to that kid because Dad wouldn’t let it. That child doesn’t even realize how loved, cherished and important he is to his dad.
Today, August 11th is my dad’s birthday, and the 3rd since he died of a rare form of leukemia in 2017. One day, I think I’ll understand what he saw (sees) in me that I couldn’t see, and understand how he loved me endlessly, as a father and friend. Moses Scott is (still) my father, friend, and hero and I’m going to honor him and one of the final things I knew he admired that we shared: 180º of Impact.
It was a snowy day in December 2016 when I remember sitting in my dad’s office in New Jersey. It was there that I wrote the first post for 180º of Impact, when it was a blog, about outgoing President Barack Obama and about his quote: “The most important office in a democracy is the office of citizen.” I remember talking with my dad about what I wrote, and proudly showing him like it was show and tell in grade school. He always told me I was a talented writer and we were in awe when numerous people from the Obama White House liked and read the post. Daddy was so encouraging and strong; he was my source of strength. I was excited to interview him one day about his own super hero origin story, from Prince Edward County and the historic closing of the schools to living with strangers to finish high school to graduating college and entering the Army to graduating Harvard Business School to his career and meeting my mom to having a family and starting a business in honor of his mother Sophia Brown Scott who died of Alzheimer’s Disease to truly loving and serving the senior citizens of Essex County, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
So, when I suddenly, unexpected lost him to leukemia two months later, my world shattered. It was like Samson in the bible, known for his flowing hair, having his hair sheared and losing his power. I was powerless. More powerless than I’d even felt when my own life had been in danger.
Faced with the choice of tapping out or putting on my hiking boots and venturing out, I laced up and began my search, my climb, to find my power. Thankfully, I knew exactly where to look.
As a digital storyteller at SecondMuse over that last year, I’d met so many social entrepreneurs, advocates, changemakers, and innovators, people shaping their livelihoods around the pursuit of helping build a better world. From NASA’s Space Apps Challenge hackathon in New York City to National Day of Civic Hacking with the U.S. Chief Technology Officer in Washington, DC, and from Perth, Australia for the Australian Government-funded Aquacelerator to Nike World Headquarters in Portland, Oregon, I was surrounded by real-world superheroes. You could argue that Spiderman has nothing on Vigga Svennson, an innovator looking to end the waste all parents experience when their babies grow out of their close, or that the X-Men have nothing on the ten problem-solvers looking to find new solutions to our ocean’s depleting health and resourcesas part of the Blue Economy Challenge.
Being around them was one thing but, if I wanted to find my own power, I’d need to dig deep and meet heroes, a lot of heroes (and I decided on 180, to be exact), where they are.
So, four months after my dad died, I started interviewing them. More than two years later, I’ve had conversations spanning 50+ hours with about 80 “impact players” to get answers to questions like “who” and “why” — their super hero origin stories. These interviews have evolved from Zoom video call recordings shared on Youtube to in person recordings with my phone to a podcast on Soundcloud, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Stitcher. I’ve been able to share the story a little along the way, but my focus has really been on the interview conversations themselves.
2 years later, as I’ve had these conversations, I’ve started to find my power.
My own “Morphin Time”, Wakanda forever, and Bat Signal were coming into view and I decided to take a big leap — a 2,800 mile leap to be exact — all the way across the country to San Francisco. That’s why me and my friend and former 180º interviewee, podcast guest, and American Diabetes Association video collaborator Erik Douds met up in San Francisco during San Francisco Design Week and San Francisco Pride, and interviewed 21 people face-to-face over the course of six days to find how people could start early (start young) and make an impact. In other words, how people can find their own super powers.
Each year since my dad’s death, I’ve tried to give myself a gift on his birthday. The first year it was listening to jazz and dancing in my seat with my mom just blocks from where they first met. The second year, I hung out with my long-time friends for a fun-filled night of good food, lively dogs, and board games. This year, I’m telling the world about 20s and Change.
We talked about the issues, about insulin (thanks, Erik), about identity, and about impact. There was a lot said that needed to be said and, even more (soon enough), seen and heard.
I’m excited for the day 20s and Change gets out into the world. As a gift to myself and to my dad, I wanted to give you a window into my journey to discover others, discover myself, and discover the power my dad saw (sees) in me by meeting real-world super heroes like my dad, making an impact and building a better world in their own way.
I wish this weren’t the way things were. I’d give up 180º of Impact and everything, really, in a heartbeat if it meant i could have my dad back. But I can’t go back, none of us can. Know that makes me more resolved to look forward a build a better future, for me but even more for others, because that’s what my dad did, selflessly and tirelessly, until the moment he was forced to check into the hospital and put his life’s purpose with caregivers and the elderly aside. (Wow, he was a great person.)
With 20s and Change, I’m setting out to honor my role model my dad and the love, strength, encouragement, kindness, respect, admiration, and joy he gave me. As for the dad and child I saw today, I hope that, one day, that kid will be able to fully understand what his dad did for him. Even I’m still searching for that, but I know it’s within reach as I better understand him through heroes like him.
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