Thursday, October 14, 2010

Connecting To The World Around Us

There are so many people in our lives that touch us in different ways, either in serving us, supporting us or living life around us. This story touched me because it tells of how in doing our jobs we can bring more and go beyond the goods or services. If we take a moment and connect, it can bring so much more into our lives and those around us. Taking that moment to say hello, how are you, how is your family and giving the respect and warmth all humans need can be a mission on to itself.  Work can be so much more than the processing of duties and responsibilities, it is how we connect to the world around us. What do we bring to work? What will those we work with, for and around remember of us?

At Farragut Square, mourning the burrito man who became a friend
By Steve Hendrix
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 6, 2010; 9:31 PM

In the ever-churning universe of a city street corner, Carlos Guardado was that rarest of things: a fixture.

For almost 20 years, he was there, a little guy in a metal cart, selling rice-and-bean burritos at 17th and K streets NW on Farragut Square. He was there in all weather, during uptimes and downturns, a dependable rock in the rapids of life in downtown Washington.

Until suddenly, this week, he wasn't, and a busy neighborhood paused to realize that it was a pretty big man who had been doing that little job.

Tuesday, when the hungry emerged from their marble lobbies, in place of Guardado's cart they found a hand-drawn sign posted by his brother-in-law announcing that the burrito man had suffered a heart attack and died a few days earlier. He was 48.

A man in a tailored suit read the words, touched his open mouth and lowered his head into his hand. Two women hugged, one crying openly. They came to the cart at least once a week, the other said, usually together.

"No! Oh my God," cried Pat Pasqual as she stopped in her tracks. She had bought countless cups of coffee from the cart that was no longer there.

"I'd like to talk about him, but I don't think I can right now," said Robert Tigner, a lawyer for a professional association across the street, his voice breaking as he read the notice.

All day, they came, lawyers and interns, lobbyists and vagrants, working folks who had made Guardado a part of their routine, suddenly realizing that the burrito guy had found his way into their hearts.

"I guess we became friends. We did become friends," Tigner said later by phone. The lawyer marveled that he'd spoken with Guardado almost every workday for 10 years. "Sometime for a few minutes, sometimes for much longer. We talked about kids and soccer, his two loves - in that order."

Judy Sheahan worked a few blocks away at the U.S. Conference of Mayors' offices. As soon as a friend called to tell her about the poster, she went to "Carlos's Corner," as many called it, and joined in the spontaneous street-side mourning.

"I was hugging people that I didn't even know, faces I recognized from Carlos's cart," she said. "We cried together. This tore a real hole in our office."

Tigner and Sheahan were two of almost a hundred people who attended a visitation for Guardado Tuesday night in Gaithersburg. Many were downtown office workers, connected by nothing other than their acquaintance with a cheerful vendor.

Sheahan, who started nearly every morning with a stop at the cart for coffee and a chat that would sometimes last 20 minutes, made a study of Guardado's wide appeal. He kept people coming back by recalling not only their food preferences, but also the names of their children and standings of their sports teams. Workers who had been transferred away would come find him on their visits back. He once got a postcard from a customer traveling in Africa. It was addressed "Carlos's Burrito Cart, Corner of 17th and K."

"When he told you he hoped you would have a good day, he really meant it," said Sheahan. "I don't think he had any idea the impact he had on people."

Actually, Guardado often did speak of the impact his customers had on him, according to his wife, Carmen Diaz, a secretary at Montgomery County Public Schools headquarters. His own routine was brutal - up at 4 a.m., a drive from Germantown to pick up his cart at a downtown warehouse by 6, set up on the corner with his massive coolers deployed and the beans simmering by 7.

But he came home filled with stories he plucked from the endless parade of humanity that marched by his window.

"Every day, he came home and tell me, 'Carmen, they love me,' " Diaz said Wednesday as she and their children, Allison, 19, and Mathew, 14, made their own final pilgrimage to the corner where Guardado lived so much of his life. "The people in the city, they were his family, too. We shared him with them."

Guardado came, illegally, to the United States in 1981, as the war in El Salvador made life dangerous for a 17-year-old boy. He told Sheahan how he'd had one cousin die in his arms and discovered the body of an uncle.

For years, Guardado worked as a painter, eventually gaining legal residency. In 1990, paying in installments, he bought a hot dog cart licensed for Farragut Square. Soon, he changed his menu to burritos, which put him years ahead of the food-cart boom the city is now enjoying. He put out a basket for people to pay by the honor system - so he wouldn't have to handle money in his "kitchen" - and found himself a career.

If he looked lonely, an isolated figure in a steamy cart, customers soon learned that his life was full. The soccer prowess of his children, along with their academic achievements, were known to hundreds of diners. When he brought Allison to Take Your Daughter to Work Day a few years ago, word spread as if a celebrity had been sighted.

"It was really cool seeing them together," recalled Ava Page, a regular from Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a nearby advocacy group. "He was just beaming."

Guardado meant the cart to be a stop on the way to a proper restaurant. But years turned to decades, and the income was enough to buy a house and, later, send Allison to the University of Maryland, where she is now a sophomore.

His talk of opening a restaurant faded in recent years.

"I think he was content," said Sheahan. "He always talked about the cart being a wonderful window on the world and that he learned more on that corner than most people do in a lifetime. He was one of the smartest people I've ever met in Washington."

The Carlos Guardado Children's Education Fund is being administered by Father Evelio Menjivar at the Cathedral of St. Matthew, 1725 Rhode Island Ave. NW,
Washington, D.C., 20036.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Surprise Moment To Say Thank You

Well yesterday, I was off doing what I always do when I travel – getting in the “zone.” Focused on getting to the gate, getting on the plane and heading to my location. Things to read, things to think about and out of the blue a change takes shape. As I was standing in line waiting for my flight to come in an an announcement was broadcast at the Southwest gate at Dulles International (IAD)... “dear passengers on the flight to Chicago we need your generosity. Your plane is about to pull in and it is filled with WW2 Vets, many disabled, coming to Washington to see the WW2 National Memorial and to have a special day. If you would like to join the color guard and welcome line please do. While this will delay your boarding, we will make it all up in the air and this is a special opportunity to thank those that gave so much for our way of life.”

Wow, all the passengers where standing in line, looking at one another – motionless. All these young military people started showing up and going to the hallway right out side the plane gangway. So I said to the Southwest employee, “can I go out there and be part of that?” He said “as long as you clap very hard and make sure the vets know you care?” After my handshake commitment off I went to the hallway and I would say 50 plus of the other passengers followed.

So the plane was pulling in and two fire trucks pumped water over the plane, in a water cannon salute. I had never seen something like that and everyone in the long glass hallway started to clap and cheer. Within a few minutes all the WW2 vets started coming down the hall way, in wheelchairs, with walkers, with canes or standing up straight and walking on their own. They were wearing hats with what branch of the military they were in, or where they served, some in their old military jackets. Some had around their necks pictures of them as young soldiers. Men, women, African American, Asian American, all colors, all different but they all had this glow about them and the biggest smiles.

As the Vets came down the hallway, the people waiting clapped, hugged, kissed, patted each and every Vet. I heard “thank you for serving” and “welcome to Washington DC” and “you are a great patriot.” The tears were flowing on all sides (the Vets, the welcomes and even those on the other side of the glass that had not followed into the hallway.)

For a moment it felt like we were all doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right place. You know that moment when the world and time seems to stop and you want to do the best you can. I shook the hand of every single one of the Vets and looked them in the eyes and said “thank you and welcome to your Capital” boy, the connection in their eyes. Such a humbling moment for all of us, the sense of love of fellow human, fellow American. It  recharged my batteries and made me think of my Grandfather and how he served in WW1 and my Uncle Bob who is a Marine that served in WW2 in the Pacific and my Father In-law Gorge who served in WW2 in the Army in the Philippines and Pacific. How soon they will all leave us and we need to say thank you.

We should all have to do that, stand in a line welcome those who have served and say “thank you” - makes you realize we have a great deal to be thankful for.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Might be…

So today I went for a tour at Disneyland called “Walk in Walt’s Footsteps” and our tour guide Frank did a super job. He crafted a vision of what Walt Disney the person was about, his thinking, and his view of the world. There were tons of little side notes and comments (like the fact that drawbridge on the castle actually works, but it was only once used – on opening day for the TV broadcast. It wasn’t meant to open and close but 48 hours before Disneyland’s opening Walt wanted the impact of the bridge opening and kids and families to come rushing out. The imaginieers made it happen.)

What hit me today was the fact that the Walt Disney I remember, on TV and in movies is the successful Walt Disney – the man that made his dreams real. On the tour today we learned a great deal of how hard, how long Walt Disney fought t make what he dreamed real. As Frank said today “Walt grew to realize that when people told him that his ideas were crazy, couldn’t be done – this is when he knew he was on the right path. That even his own brother Roy couldn’t fully understand the vision of these firsts – like the movie Snow White or Disneyland. While he believed in his brother and he was able to  was the fact that he made his brother Walt’s dreams real by raising the funds he needed. (Another little fact, when Disneyland was being built the budget was $1.9 million at the start and when it was done it was $17.5 million.)

Walt’s response to the negative, no way, nay Sayers was “might be” (‘Walt that is crazy, no one has ever done a ….’ – Might be?’) but he was the eternal optimist and he saw that in all troubles or mistakes things could be gained. Walt was about the possibility of people doing the impossible. Today I saw a Walt Disney that was human, was a man with the ability to communicate his dreams. A person that had very hard times, ups and downs but never gave up. A Walt Disney that was a young man with dreams and heroes. A Husband, Dad, a Grandpa, a friend. It was energizing to think of all the negative views that came at him and he still made amazing realities.

It was great today to just sit in the circle at the start of main street as see the happy families, the older couples walking hand and hand, the kids and the older guys wearing funny hats. The smiles, the eyes shooting all over taking it all in on this sunny day in southern California I could feel Walt’s spirit very much alive Today I gained a little of that can do energy, passion and vision. And next time someone says “no way Dave, you are crazy there is no way we can XYZ” I will think “might be…” and find a way to move forward.  Walt Disney spent 11 years personally developing the park (even living there from time to time).

(I got to go in the famous Club 33 and touched the doorknob that Walt would have used to open the door and also touched the bench that Walt was sitting on at a park one Sunday and the idea of Disneyland came to him.) 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Moment Before…

Just Before You Leap...

So this week Kristy, the girls and I went to the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery (one of my favorite museums in DC) to see the current Norman Rockwell exhibit. Deep inside I have always had a fascination for Rockwell. In many ways I always saw his work as an advertisement for the American way. Capturing the sense of what was truly American of that time, while in the same brush stroke putting together a whole story in one image.

The day started out with all the right mood setters. For the first time in my life I was able to park right in front of the museum, we walked up and in five minutes the museum opened. While we waited and stood on the steps into the building I thought of all those that had come to this building when it was the Patent and Trademark building. Hopes, dreams, crazy ideas and inventions that would move the country, the world and business ahead. All walking up these same steps, model in hand waiting to see if they could become a part of the American dream and the annals of US history (once you are awarded a patent your name will live on!)

So in we went to see this private collection of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg of artwork by Rockwell. We went to the movie first and it was a great set up. Made me begin to remember how ingrained Rockwell’s images are part of my past and also capture a time in American that the possablities where there, the compassion was there and a sense of “together we all make this a great country.”
In the words of both Lucas and Spielberg (summarized) is the thinking that Rockwell was a storyteller. That in his art, with one picture he would tell a whole story. What takes a moviemaker a whole movie to tell, he would tell in a single picture. That through his lens he would shape a story of what we hoped America would be. That in a single image he captured volumes of feeling, emotion and a story from start to finish. They both also feel America needs a Rockwell of today, a way to capture this sense of what it means to be American. What we should be as a nation, a people.  We need more story tellers!

It was fun to see what each person collected and learn why and what motivated them to buy which art. The last picture is one of Spielberg’s favorites, if not his most favorite. The artwork hangs in his office as a daily reminder of the emotion, feeling and message behind it.  For him it represents that moment before he takes that leap into a new project, a new movie. That sense of fear, of not knowing what to really expect. The sense of being afraid and thinking can he do it? The moment before the leap is both fear and excitement, but in the end you need to take the leap!

Makes me think of something I once heard, “do what scares you that way you are more awake for the moment and really live in the moment.” 

Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out. Benjamin Franklin 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What Is Dave Doing???? The Next Adventure

Just wanted to share a quick update on where I am career wise and wondering what Dave is up to? Home life is going well and Carolyn and Hannah are having a good summer (so is Kristy...)

I joined Centennial almost 6 years ago after heading up the National Scrip Center.  As I liked to call myself, the Steward and Servant of this organization that was a non-profit organization supporting other non-profits. We raised over $20 million a year for charities and associations and non-profits across the United States. This was a great experience and while I thought I came to the NSC to do one thing (grow it to get back closer to $100 million a year) the fact was the overall financial structure of the entity was not right and we also had an attack from an unscrupulous for profit competitor (too long a story to go into here) - needless to say I ended up shutting down NSC. One thing that I took with me in my heart when NSC was finally done was the excitement, the passion that a team has to help others. I stood along side some AMAZING individuals that moved mountains to help charities, schools, non-profits. I missed that rush from the higher purpose.

So I joined Centennial after looking at the other job and career opportunities before me. I loved the idea of taking a successful, stealth, business and defining its brand and building its whole marketing and sales approach. When I joined the founder who hired me gave me a list of objectives to achieve. I believe I achieved all these objectives, and then some. It was a wonderful place to work and a great team to be on. I learned a great deal and I hope brought a great deal to the effort as well.  As I like to say, change is the only constant, and well change shifted its fate filled eyes towards me.

Recently I started to think what next? I wanted to lead an organization again, be able to apply my approaches to business and to teams. I wanted to do something that was more than just business, something with a heart and a soul focused on helping the world – and was really a creative business at the heart.

So about 5 weeks ago I received a call from someone I respect and worked with ten years ago.  We have stayed in contact over the years. They basically summed it up, “Dave I have a starting idea for a new business but I need someone to come and take it to the next level and to make it a stand alone business. There is only one guy I know that can do this and have fun at the same time, that is you. So you want to come create a business from the ground up? Be employee one? Build this the way you think it should? Lead it? Its time to get the band back together! (The Blues Brothers... I guess that makes me Jake?)” Wow... I knew this was something to seriously look at and think about.

So I sat down over a vacation at the Outer Banks (OBX) N.C. and typed up my ideas around this possible business and target market.  It flowed naturally from my mind and fingertips. It felt right. Next I  typed up my pros and cons comparison list. I also remembered that saying I heard many years ago “do what scares you a little bit, gives you that sense of excitement.” So after talking about it and doing a brain dump on the idea and gaining alignment with my future partner II said “yes” to the next adventure.

While it was very hard to leave Centennial, I know that the team that is there driving market and business development is a very, very strong team and they will do great things. The company is growing into new markets, strategic partners and offerings. Change will be good for them as well.

So what is it I am doing? Well I have to figure all that out. I left Centennial on July 30th and have been working on the planning, development and marketing around the business idea ever since. Summed up in simple terms the business is about helping associations and non-profits improve performance around corporate sponsorships, membership loyalty and fundraising. The rest is still in the works (name, offering, full business model, marketing, plans... Oh my... Take a breath David, OK breath in and out...) The goal is to set up a business that not only helps the world by helping associations and non-profits, but also is a successful business with creative team members doing amazing things.

Just so you know, Singing Eight Enterprises, It is the code name for the project I am working on (you know me I love project code names) Eight is a super lucky number in Chinese beliefs, it means good fortune. Almost like a natural luck. Singing is the idea to take this luck, these good wishes and amplify them (there are those that believe the universe is connected through tone and song, that the string theory is about harmony though different tones) and enterprises is a tribute to my last place. The real name of the business is TBD.

I will be sharing, looking for support and an ear to bend as I move forward on this adventure.

Best in Spirit! David C

A few ways to stay in touch:

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Cell is the same: 707-484-3620
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