“I’ll meet you there.” How many times have you said that in your life? How many times did you really mean it? How many times did you plan to cancel, but thought you’d make the effort?
“I’ll meet you there,” was the last thing I said to Charles before I hung up around 5pm at my office in Soho. He explained that he was in Brooklyn, but he thought he could make it to Bryant Park by 6:15. I refuse to tell someone they can’t do something, so I simply agreed. I agreed with a simple, “I’ll meet you there.”
It’s now well past 6:25pm. This is when I decided to take the picture attached to this post because I realized how confusing midtown can be at rush hour. I can see. Charles cannot. It does not define him, but it does play a critical role in meeting someone, somewhere, at some time, in the heart of New York City.
For the 1,000th time after having met Charles, perspective hits me in the face. The point of meeting early was to finalize and rehearse the speech that we have only practiced through email to the Achilles board. A beautiful soul, Kat Bateman, has welcomed us to meet the individuals most deeply invested in this incredible foundation. However, I can’t even find Charles. I know he’s on his way. I know he has no intention of being late. Then I receive a text letting me know he took a wrong turn off of the Times Square subway station.
Have you ever been to Times Square? Native New Yorkers and transplants despise the area. For a reason. You can’t see two feet in front of you, and the chances of you being plowed over by a grown man dressed as Elmo overwhelm most odds known to modern statisticians. There is simply no good place to stand. It’s almost impossible to navigate if you’re in a rush to get somewhere. Anywhere.
I head west on 42nd to meet Charles around the intersection of 6th Avenue. By the time I see him in the crowd, walking full speed ahead, I’m almost hit by a taxi. Please don’t tell my wife or Penelope. The point is, no one is immune to the complexities of this city. I finally get to him, only to mutter, “At some point, when we have more time, tell me how the hell you do this.”
Skip ahead 30 minutes. Past the practice, past the prep-work for tomorrow’s presentation at Investopedia, past the review of feedback from yet another presentation. Charles and I are now standing in front of well over a dozen of the most influential folks at Achilles. It truly is an honor, and Charles is calm as a cucumber. A phrase that I will have to explain to him tomorrow.
It’s always an honor to sit next to the founder of Achilles. It’s a newfound honor to see Governor Paterson seated to the right of him. This grows even more meaningful as each board member comes up after the presentation to learn more about Charles and his story. They sincerely want to know how Achilles has impacted his life, and they ask smart, pointed questions such as, “What has the New York Chapter specifically done to make this a good experience for you?” They care so deeply, and it’s incredible.
What Charles said during his speech will never be documented. Not because it wasn’t profound or impactful. It’s because simply showing up to say, “I want to give back,” is all he needed to do. When I asked a member of the board (who will remain nameless) why the Mongolian chapter is now the biggest chapter, he replied, “because we found a person that hustles.” My reply? “Well, that’s how the world works.” I become even more inspired to achieve the goal we have set out to accomplish this year. I hustle. Charles hustles. They will see what we can do soon enough.
I’m writing this at 11:05pm, and I’m on Metro North heading home. My wife and daughter will be asleep when I get home. I have to admit, I did not want to let Charles down tonight. I tried to anticipate any questions the board might ask me as a guide. I tend to overthink things. Intuition told me they might want to know why I choose to guide with Achilles. I’m embarrassed to admit I rehearsed an answer, just in case. The answer is/was/and will continue to be: to set an example for my daughter. Someone (who will remain nameless) once told me a father gets to set the bar for what his daughter expects from life. I want her to believe that she can overcome whatever gets in her way. Charles constantly reassures and reinforces that belief for me. Also, I want Penelope to know that as soon as you are strong enough to help yourself, you should start helping others. I did the most trivial task tonight. I helped Charles get from one subway stop to a board room. Once in that room, he nailed it. That’s what it means to be a guide with Achilles. You help extremely capable people overcome obstacles, big and small. You become a doer. You become a problem solver.
We have already reached a few hundred people with our message. It’s not even our message, it’s the message of Achilles. Soon we will reach almost 1000 people since we started this just a few weeks ago. There are so many ways we can expand our efforts this year, and I’ll go to bed thankful that we get to tap into the brains of such smart individuals thanks to this meeting with the board. Thank you, Kat. Thank you, Achilles.
What will our final results look like when we reach that first Sunday in November? I don’t know, Charles, but I will meet you there.