That's one nugget of advice my mother had offered to me when I was a freshman in high school (a.k.a. The Loner Period). And I tried. I was a background actor in the fall play. I set off major Nerd Alerts by joining (gulp) the Library Council. And I even pushed myself to write an article or two for The Gael Force, our school paper, my first piece discussing the increasing trashiness of TV in the 90s. But it wasn't until I was recruited to join the speech and debate team that I found myself immersed in something that stimulated me, influenced me, changed me.
Fast forward fourteen years later (gulp, again), and I have found myself overbooked, overstressed - yet overjoyed - in a whirlwind of events I am proud to be a part of.
My summers, especially after the 4th of July, have now officially become Hot in Hollywood season. That's when things kick in and I am suddenly juggling two jobs at once (three, if you count these little contributions to the blogosphere).
Being a part of this steering committee, this event, this experience - in short - has changed my life, and I am so proud to be a part of it and so overwhelmingly grateful for being given the opportunity to work on something that will change lives, not only locally, but globally.
Shortly after Saturday night's enormously successful event (you can see for yourself via the links throughout this entry) I received an e-mail from one of my volunteers who has been with us since the first bash in 2006. He's a friend of a friend who wanted to help out in any way he could, totally gung-ho and ready to take on whatever we threw at him. This year was no exception. He started early in the morning when we needed last-minute help with set-up at the theater, and he stayed well past midnight to break down the stage and clear out the venue. He never stopped or gave up, telling me he was happy to do the work and how he fully supported what we do.
In his e-mail he explained why he has been so passionate about helping us year after year:
My friend Hiko,
Thank you so much for letting me come in and volunteer with everybody. I really feel elevated by this opportunity. These past 2 years have been really good for me with HIH, and here is why.
In 1986 my father was diagnosed with HIV. I did not find out about it until 1988 when I was a sophomore, and back then you kept things like this to yourself. Sadly my father passed in the summer of 1992, and for a while I was very depressed. I had always been a summertime guy, you know?
As the summers passed and the anniversary came around, I found myself down in the dumps a lot. Now, thanks to the Hot in Hollywood family, I have a duty to help fight this disease and HELP people living with it. I no longer am so sad this time of year, and HIH has really helped me feel better. I am actually doing something about helping people.
I am humbled to be a part of this event, and so very happy and willing to go all out when it's time. I am personally touched by the overwhelming goodwill that is connected to this event. I cry a little on the inside when I see all these people coming together to help out those who need it the most.
Thank you very much and may all the good of the world be upon everybody involved in the project!
It's so easy to get lost in the chaos of the planning, the scheduling, the stress, the red carpet brouhaha - the distracting bullshit - and this was a great and much-needed reminder of why we do what we do. While I read his letter at work I was genuinely touched (nearly becoming a blubbering mess myself) and blown away by his dedication and strong belief in us. It truly showed how Hot in Hollywood touches not only those serviced by our beneficiaries but those who are there, on the frontlines, participating in the actual event itself.
All of us who worked on this benefit will take away different things, some more than others. I know I'll still feel the effects of it, whatever they may be, for some time to come.
And some of these feelings will fade, but not completely, as the year goes on and we busy ourselves with other commitments. Call it a hiatus. However, once Spring 2009 rolls around, our engines will rev up once again, and we'll prep ourselves for new challenges that will no doubt stimulate us, influence us, change us.
I'm learning how important it is to immerse yourself in something you're passionate about because, most likely, what you do will have a positive effect on someone, if not many someones. The world can't change for the better unless there's action. And there can be no action unless you believe in such change, get out there and do something.