"We are all in this humans race together and it's our job to make sure we all cross the finish line as one."

Monday, January 30, 2012

Chasing Hunger

He looked at the cellophane wrapped cookies in his hand and smiled as if he had just been rewarded his favorite treat for a deserved accomplishment.  He quietly slid them into his disheveled sweatshirt and hitched his belted pants around the waist that called out for the cookies to be delivered to them for sustenance.

He hadn’t noticed that I was witnessing his covert handling of the snacks and that I was someone who worked for the parent company of the café he was stealing from. I quickly hung up the cell phone call I was on and approached him as he began his exit from the café. “Excuse me.” I called to him. “Let’s put those back lad.” He of course hastened his pace and began his rapid trek down the block. I could have let him go. I should have. It was just three or four cookies.

I didn’t.

We darted through the traffic like birds in a storm, dancing between the cars and pirouetting in clear misses of unsuspecting taxis. “Come on son, it’s not worth this for just some cookies!” I bellowed out to him. A store manager from the location we were in had joined this criminal ballet on New York’s roads. He took off fast and furious. His lean dark frame, clearly over twenty years my junior, sprinted hard through the pedestrians hungry to catch the chase on their Smartphone’s. I surprised myself with being able to overtake him in speed and cut him off. “OK let’s talk! No chase. Just talk.”

We walked shoulder to shoulder like hunter and prey.  My eyes on his hands every motion.

“Son, you can do the right thing. Right now. Walk away clean and leave with good conscious. You don’t have to do this brother.”
“Where you get all this energy?” He asked puzzlingly.
“From you man! And from the fact you are cutting into my lunch hour so I can get you to come clean?”
“I’m hungry. Leave me alone!” His voice picking up volume to match his pace accelerating again.
“Clearly! But you don’t have to steal my man. You could have just asked and if you had, you would have found that, more than likely, we would have helped you out. But you chose this. Now, give me the cookies and let’s go get a soup and sandwich together. On me.”
“Leave me alone!” And he bolted back through the oncoming traffic.

“Really?  Seriously? You want to do this?”

The manager from the store, having enough of the cat and mouse game gained on the young man and shoved him. Turning, the lad sprung at the manager and got a clean grip of his neck tie and drew him into a struggle I worked to avoid. I grabbed the man and held him in a full nelson and told him to stop. To dismiss this and let the other man go. I pleaded with him like a father does his child when you know he is doing something tragically wrong.

“This isn’t the way to be famous on Twitter and YouTube son.” As I noticed all the cell phones, iPhones,  tourists cameras locked on us like a red carpet super couple. He broke out of my grip and darted again, lost his footing , caught himself but, not before the cookies expelled themselves from his pockets.

I retrieved them and we locked eyes. I handed the items to the store manager with the exception of one. I sized up the distance between my adversary and I and tossed him the chocolate chip one he had looked at so excitedly back at the store. He looked at me confused.

“You made a wrong choice kid. But I’m not going to let you go away hungry.”

As I walked away several people were still filming on their lack of privacy devises. Half serious and half snide I gave them a parting sound bite.

“Crime doesn’t pay. But neither does ignoring another humans hunger.”

I had lost my appetite. His hunger was now mine.

And so it goes…That was my Monday.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Sullivans: A History of Social Good

I’m proud of something. I’m proud of who I am. I’m proud of a lot of the choices I have made and a lot of the things I have accomplished with helping others through fundraisers, charities and just getting across the street. Is that an egotistical thing to say? No. I don’t think so. As long as what we do is pure of heart and it comes without looking for rewards.

It’s who I am. It’s what my family has always been and it’s a part of my genetic design. It’s what Sullivans do and have always done. We put things right where they have been wronged and been part of the change needed to better the world around us.

My great great grand-uncle was Big Tim Sullivan the first Irish Catholic state senator elected to office in turn of the century New York. He rose in power through the harrowing streets of the Five Points district of old New York and eventually to the corrupt hallways of old Tammany Hall.  Was he saint? No. Not by any stretch of the imagination. He was after all a politician.

But he cared about people and became the savior of the broken, the beaten and damned of the city. He filled his pockets with coins and as he left his office and poor street urchins would rush him and dig through the giant’s pockets for the treasure they knew awaited them.  He loved the children and believed that no child no matter their race or religion should be shoeless. Every holiday season he brought shoes for every child that needed them and back then that was  a lot of shoes.

He passed into law The Sullivan Law which meant you couldn’t carry a concealed weapon in the state of New York and was the first male politician to stand up and fight for a woman’s rights in the work place and voting booths. On his passing it seemed every citizen turned out for his funeral. It’s still considered to be the largest public funeral  in the city’s history.

My father’s Aunt Betty, Big Tim’s niece was a chief player in Queens, NY where she worked with charitable organizations as well as school boards to better education in the areas of Woodside and Sunnyside, where I now call home. But the person that did so much for others was my mother, Dawn Sullivan.

Mom worked tirelessly as a tenant activist here in New York and is responsible for saving more people’s homes and changing rent laws than any other non political player in the city. She started the Eastside Tenant Coalition and volunteered for more charities and committees than were even thought of. And the funny part of it all was she wasn’t even a citizen. She was an Australian and fiercely proud of it! But she loved people. She loved her adopted city. She was me and my sibling’s direct inspiration for what we would become.

I see the same fire in my 3 year old daughter. I knew it was there when she overheard my wife and I talking about my work with Amanda Hite and the No Kid Hungry campaign to end childhood hunger in America. She was confused and asked, “You mean there are children that have no food? What can I do?” She understands hunger and her appetite to end it is strong. So she does what she can. It’s in her genetic make-up. She is a Sullivan.

Everyone has the gene to do good. To be the change. If you aren’t involved in some charity or organization that is trying to make a difference I urge you to get connected with one.  You could be the start of generations of society changers and this world will be the better for it.

And So It Goes...

The 80's Solid Hits of Customer Service from K-Tel!

The following is an actual transcript of a cassette tape that was discovered in the basement of a warehouse to a long gone company called K-Tel Records that produced “greatest hit” compilations from the 70’s through the late 80’s.

The date on the tape is labeled 1989 and the handwritten black marker lettering said simply “Commercial voice over for concept hits package “80’s Smash Hits of Customer Service”. Due to the degraded and damaged audio, I have conveniently transcribed this voice from yesteryear in hopes to preserve this little bit of customer service history.


“K-Tel presents “Solid Hits of Customer Service”! This dynamite collection of songs consumers, like yourself, are singing to customer service reps and what they are singing back to you! No other collection has such explosive chart toppers like these!  Just dig these high-power customer complaint tracks!

Do Really Want To Hurt Me? by Culture Club (sound clip) “Do you really wanna hurt me?/Do ya really wanna make me cry?”

Silent Running by Mike and The Mechanics (sound clip) “Can you hear me/Can you hear me running/Can you hear me running /But can’t you hear me calling you?”

Don’t You Want Me by The Human League (sound clip) Don’t you want me baby?/Don’t you want me Ohhh ohhhh?”

We’re Not Going to Take it by Twisted Sister (sound clip) “We’re not going to take it/No, we ain’t going to ake it/We’re not going to take it anymore!”

Missing You by John Waite (sound clip) “I ain’t missing you at all/Since you been gone away/I ain’t missing you/No matter what I might say.”

Don’t You Forget About Me by Simple Minds (sound clip) “Will you recognise me?/ Call my name or walk on by/ Don’t’ you forget about me!”

Plus you get these power-packed smashes about customer service gone right for customers!

The Way You Make me Feel by King of Pop, Michael Jackson! (sound clip) The way you make me feel/really turns me me on/You knock e off my feet now”

What I Like About You by The Romantics “Keep on whispering in my ear/tell me all the things that I wanna hear/Cause it’s true/It’s what I like about you”

Also these amazing customer service response songs to consumers!

Call Me by Go West (sound clip) “Call me/Call me/No time to hesitate we must communicate/Call me/ Just call this number now!”

Let My Love Open The Door by Peter Townsend (sound clip) “When everybody keeps retreating /But you can't seem to get enough/Let my love open the door to your heart”

That’s What Friends Are For by Steve Wonder and Dionne Warwick (sound clip) “For good times/For bad times/I’ll be on your side forever more/That’s what friends are for.”

Yes, these and many, many others can be yours NOW! What are you waiting for? This limited edition collection is available now at Crazy Eddies, Gimbals, Woolworths and other great stores!”

K-Tel Records had folded up shop before this final project ever saw the light of day. Sadly, the days of
K-Tel Records hit’s collections have been replaced with individual compressed digital downloads. But the beat goes on and perhaps the Customer Service boom would have come earlier had this collection ever hit the shelves.

K-Tel, we MISS YOU! And So It Goes….

Dedicated to Dave Reynolds and Rickie Tyler at 99.7 FM The River

Friday, January 6, 2012

I Survived. These Children Did Not: Cyberbullying

She placed the delicately written note into her back pocket and made sure its folds touched the inner lip of the pocket seam so as to not have it dislodge. She looked to her left as she waited patiently for the bus to arrive. It was an unusually warm winter and she thought about the fresh air that caresses her lungs with each breath. She thought about her family, her brother, her boyfriend who just broke up with her and the mean things people have been posting on her Facebook page and Tweeting about her.

As the bus appeared down the block it was not scheduled to stop on her corner but she knew this corner would be her last stop and she stepped out into the street, released the air that danced in lungs and allowed the bus to relieve her pain, worries and fear and she was no more.

Her name was Amanda Cummings. She was 15 and a victim of cyberbullying. She was just the latest poster child for an all too familiar story going on in our society today. The neighborhood or school bully has gone viral and into the realm of the most cowardly stealth manner of attacking others. The days of the bully liberating us of our milk money and leaving us mildly bruised mentally and physically are gone.

When I hear stories like Amanda’s it sickens and saddens me to the point where I take it very personally. I curse “God” and ask where he was when these young hurt children made the final choice to be no more. I want to go to that child’s school and reprimand every child that took their cowardice fingers to a keyboard and tortured their victims. I want to step back into time and grab that child and hold them and tell them that that their survival is the deadliest blow to their tormentors because their strength and armor couldn’t be penetrated. They were better than “them”.

I think I take it to heart all too much because I was the victim of bullying. I was bullied at school for being absent a great deal due to juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and being far behind the other kids. I was bullied on the street by a thug named Fat Ally, who tortured neighborhood kids and held a reign of terror over anyone under 15 years old. I was bullied verbally by my father who constantly put me down by calling me stupid and dumb. I still carry with me the scars of all these attacks and they play out in therapy and they still haunt my dreams. But they are my scars and like any other warrior that survived a battle, I wear them proudly and a as a symbol of survival.

I fought back with everything in my arsenal. I learned how to use humor to deflect the attacks of the children at school and win them over with my jokes and imitations of them. But the sweetest revenge was when I wound up in remedial classes and wound up sharing them with my tormentors. They were just like me. But rather than embarrass them, I embraced them and offered help where I could with their troubled studies.

I fought back physically when Fat Ally was leading me to and a friend to an inevitable smack down and when my friend ran off I turned and laid into Fat Ally’s stomach and realized he was just a boy like myself. He could hurt others but be hurt too. From that day forward he always nodded as he saw me and moved along. 

My Father. That is more complicated. He was a funny, clever and nice man. He was also terrified of the deep emotional commitment to being a father. He didn’t know how to be a “dad” because his was absent. I grew older and fired back verbal assaults on him as fast as he could dish them. Eventually that was a battle I won.  Only because he had said he was sorry for his actions in his elderly years. I forgave him and I had won.

As I watch my only daughter grow from a toddler into a little girl, I now start to think about her arsenal. Her tools for combating the inevitable teasing that all children will do and help her to deal with them. My wife and I must begin to plan the lessons of not being the bully, which judging by her character; I doubt she would ever play that part. I get physically ill thinking about the pain of ever losing her to her own demons and insecurities due to a cyberbully.

Please. If you have children who are victims of bullying embrace them and hear them. If you know of children bullying, take a stand. Stop them by any means necessary short of violence.

There is a very darkside to social media. Let us bring our children into the light from this and their personal dark place. 

I survived. I made it through the rain.

Please watch the video I made. It's the faces of some beautiful children...


For information on coping with cyber bullying contact The Megan Meier Foundation. Meghan was 14 when she killed herself and lead to the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act

And So It Goes...