Today I went to a community meeting designed to improve cultural awareness and empower an otherwise unknown community. The meeting organizers wanted to identify local artists and cultural leaders, in order to bring them to the forefront of the community and alter the appearance of this city as a drive-through town.
At this meeting, many people shared some of their own personal cultural stories that were interesting, but not necessarily relevant to the needs of this organization. Then a young man that spoke little English shared a story in Spanish that only a few people understood. At the end of his story, the meeting’s organizer translated for the rest of the attendees.
One Person Makes a Difference
He began with some background. He was from Mexico, interested in film but not interested enough to stick with it, moved to the United States and now works for a company that provides t-shirt screen printing services.
Back in Mexico, he used to produce some independent films of his own for fun. He even made friends with a few famous directors. As a movie lover, he wanted an opportunity to share popular films with the community. So he would get his hands on some major US blockbusters and organize outdoor movie events for the poor Mexican communities that could not afford television, movies, or even electricity.
His efforts drew the attention of the government, that seemed to be upset that he was providing these films for free for these low income families. Rather than give up, he decided to push things further. He used his connections to get his hands on movies that had not even been released yet in Mexico – movies that even the wealthy hadn’t yet been able to view.
He would then play these movies at the outdoor showings, so that the lowest income communities were able to watch these movies first. This would then draw the attention of the wealthy families to the experiences and existence of the poor families that they had largely ignored.
Whether or not this ultimately made a difference is unclear. But what this young man did (he left Mexico 8 years ago and is probably in his early 30’s now at most) provided joy to families that were without these opportunities while also drawing attention to the experiences that poor families experienced in Mexico.
What’s amazing to me isn’t that he took this type of initiative at such a young age. What’s amazing to me is that now he works as a screen printer in a city that doesn’t know his background, and treats him like everyone else.
Finding the Interesting Stories
This is actually the second time in the past month that I’ve been privileged to think about the background of someone that I otherwise would have missed. Not long ago, a man known as Edward McClain passed away. Those in Seattle knew him as the “real change guy.” He sat outside of a Safeway near the University of Washington selling newspapers with his powerful and friendly voice. He was someone that everyone knew but no one “knew.”
Back when I started writing I had a dream of asking him his life story and documenting it, but I was both shy about the idea of asking a stranger for his life history and worried that I wouldn’t be happy with his story, and it would change my view of him as a person. Now that he’s passed, I regret never talking to him. He seems like he would have been an amazing person, and someone worth learning from.
There’s no message about online marketing here, and no pitch. This post is just a reminder that there are some amazing people out there if you’re willing to look, and you’re missing out if you choose not to.