I've been following a local Chicago news story that's really captured my attention.
Last week, a pizza delivery driver (Stephen Walker) was severely beaten and robbed outside of a multi-unit apartment building. The attackers made off with his car, which they eventually crashed, taking away Mr. Walker's ability to do his job. Several residents helped Walker that night. One, a man named Omar Gutierrez, called 911 and stayed on the line until police arrived.
Omar and Stephen met again the following night at the police station, where they both gave details of what they observed and looked at suspects in a lineup. During that night at the police station, Stephen expressed how worried he was that he'd be out of work without a car to deliver pizzas, which he'd been doing for 16 years.
Omar, an architect who had recently been laid off from his job, worked with some of the neighbors to raise money. Astoundingly, within a week, they had raised over $16,000.
The neighbors, especially Omar, are kind people and we could certainly label their actions as kindness, perhaps even heroic. But this chain of events has me thinking on other levels, as well.
This is what being engaged with the world, with other people, really looks like. Many people are amazed at the kindness and donations. I am amazed that people didn't turn away and pretend it wasn't happening. In a big city, where people are disconnected from each other and where a culture against "snitching" is alive and healthy, that is the remarkable thing to me.
I think it's also a sign of engagement that Omar used the Internet to tell Stephen's story. Clearly, it was an effective way to raise awareness and funds. It's also an example of the strength and validity of blogs and "homegrown" journalists, because if you can tell your story without a middleman, the point of your story can come across much more clearly and with a much greater precision.
At this point, it's almost guaranteed that Stephen will have a car, possibly a new car, and be able to get more comprehensive insurance coverage as well.
As for Omar, I hope that his resourcefulness, drive and success in putting the fundraising drive is recognized by a potential new employer; that kind of focus, flexibility and ability to engage people is a huge asset to any company.
It's made me think about my own level of engagement. I've long wanted to volunteer at a local non-profit organization, but between trying to juggle freelance projects (unpaid ones) and hours of researching and applying for jobs every day, I've begged away from doing anything about it.
The longer I'm unemployed, the more I feel like I'm disconnected from the world. Regardless of whether it's a personal connection or a professional one, I need to find a way to engage with the world and showcase my talents and strengths.