The other day, I was asked what I’ve been up to. That question startled me a bit. I haven’t traveled in a couple weeks. I couldn’t even recall anything major. Just working on projects: the ones that pay and the ones I do for fun (Always More To Philly, of course, plus hosting dinners and other events).
A follow up question knocked me out: What are you getting out of all this?
I… I don’t know. I mean, I know, but it’s hard to explain. Most of the things I’m doing are not going to get me rich or famous. They may not even change the world. I am making an impact on specific people and my community. And that’s enough. Almost. I was left wondering what am I really getting out of all of this when it’s long time to settle down or change the world, or maybe even both.
So why do I do what I do?
Today I found out, yet again. It now feels so obvious, yet is all too easily forgotten without our magical city reminding me why exactly is there always more to Philly.
I simply went to an event. On the way there, I had a nice talk with the Lyft driver. Nothing major. No epiphany. Just a nice human interaction. The woman next to me was listening to music in her earphones. Potential conversation and connection lost. Bummer. Another passenger couldn’t find the car even as we passed right in front of her face. So I rolled down the window and got her attention via a random passerby. That little act of being helpful to her and allowing someone else to be helpful felt good in a very small but perfectly satisfying way.
The event itself was meh. It was on a subtopic of what I and many others would argue is the biggest technological, economic, and social revolution of the past 30 years. And while the main conversation didn’t interest me as much as I’d hope it would, the crowd did. There were people there aged 20-70: asking questions, engaging in open discussion, and being genuinely curious and engaged in something they could easily dismiss based on the way things are, what they were always taught, media negativity, etc.
China and Brazil
Yet the true magic of Philly started on the way back. Walking through Chinatown, the sights and smells immediately filled me with a smile. they screamed “life” in all its brightest and darkest shades. In the middle of Race street, I noticed 3-4 men watching a class through the front window of a studio. It was a Capoeira class, which is always mesmerizing with its combination of music and movement, ever so graceful, ever so rhythmic. Without thinking about it, I joined these men in watching and discussing what was going on. Within 2 minutes, I felt that I knew every class participant intimately well, almost as if I was sparring with them.
However, the real surprise came from one of these men, when he compared the moves of one of the class participants to those in the old PlayStation game, Tekken. And not just any character of that game: Yoshimitsu — my favorite! Keep in mind, this was a ~50 y.o. African-American male talking classic PlayStation game. Stereotypes be damned! (Also, just realized how old I am, yikes.)
Hello from Sweden
Feeling inspired, I continued my journey home and walked into another pleasant surprise. At an intersection by the Ben Franklin bridge, I stopped for a red light. On the cross-street, the first car was blasting ABBA’s “Waterloo” — yes that favorite song of my (and everyone else’s) mom that I love to hate (but, of course, secretly love). So, naturally, I sang and danced a little to the song while waiting for green. The woman in the car saw me and proceeded to sing and dance with me. It was at most 5 seconds before her light turned green and she drove on, yet that momentary connection was beautiful in the purest, most innocent way. As ABBA always is.
Oh yeah, and it was a full moon, apparently. Makes people do crazy things, like enjoy life in their wonderful home city.