Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Blogging again, in an attempt to #LiveLikeRick

It has been a long time since I actually "blogged a post" here, but after a recent life-shaking experience, here I am. Last Friday my pal, Rick Stilwell (@rickcaffeinated), passed away suddenly on his way to work. Rick and I worked together for the past three and a half years, which put me in a unique position of being swept into the story of this tragedy very early after the accident, but that's a different story for another time. This is the story about MY STORY and how I suspect it is now changed forever.

A little background: I met Rick in High School. We both were part of a fairly large circle of friends who all had "spiritual conversion" experience around the same time (often together at the same events.) Many of us were involved in the Trinity Baptist Church Youth Group, but also joined up for school and home bible studies, Contemporary Christian concerts, and other wacky antics. That said, Rick was not one of my closest friends back then. I had a couple of "best friends" in that group and didn't need more. Rick wasn't inside my inner circle. When I went away to college I quickly lost touch with all but my couple of "best friends" and that separation grew even greater after college, when I moved to Nashville. I underestimated how special that circle of friends was and later realized how we all pick up with each other right where we left off, regardless of the years that have passed. Some time after I moved back to SC I began blogging and, of course, reconnected with Rick there. Soon an extended circle of old and new friends were all connecting via our blogs. Eventually, FaceBook killed that for many of us, but by then Rick and I had become regular lunch buddies and Rick's enthusiasm for Social Media led me to envision my company needing to start a Social Media program. This led to the opportunity for Rick to come to work with me. 

Technically, Rick worked "for" me. He liked to introduce me to people as his "boss", because he knew how much I hated that. I always liked to say we worked together. However, when your employee is also your friend there needs to be a professional distance, or so I believed, and no possible accusation of favoritism. Perhaps that illusion kept me from realizing that over those three and a half years of working together and going to lunch together and other shared times Rick had silently moved into my inner circle. Something I've only realized in the past couple of days. But I'm only one of MANY people affected by Rick this way, probably be cause Rick didn't have an inner circle. All were welcomed by Rick. His interactions were all sincere and authentic. When the reporter for the State newspaper asked me how Rick was able to be so authentic online and offline, I didn't know how to answer that. But after some thought, I realized that it was was because Rick lived what he believed. Our encounters with Rick were blessed because he was overflowing with the Holy Spirit of God. 

In the aftermath of his death, the #LiveLikeRick Hashtag took off on Twitter and Instagram and elsewhere. People identifying with the desire to be more devoted spouses, parents and friends like Rick had demonstrated being. But how is that done? It's not an overnight change, or radical "conversion experience" that makes someone like that. Is a journey. Rick liked to say that our lives were our stories. We are in the midst of our "stories", but our stories can intersect and combine and when that happens new and better stories emerge. Social Media was a vehicle he used to connect his story with countless others. It was a natural extension for someone who was always positive and encouraging and genuine. 

So how am I going to #LiveLikeRick? I'm going to start by opening myself up to more authentic relationships   and no more "inner circles". I'm going to make more of an effort to preserve old friendships and make new ones and then combine them so we can ALL experience that kind of fellowship...Online and offline.

One of Rick's favorite verses was 1 John 1:3, which says:
We saw it, we heard it, and now we're telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy! (from The Message)

1 comment:

Tim O'Keefe said...

I'm sorry for the loss of your friend, George. Rick sounds like a genuine, thoughtful, sincere guy. The world is not quite so right now. There is a void that will never be filled in just the same way. I can't imagine your pain.

And yet you are taking his message of faith and goodness with you. He would have wanted that. To me THAT is another form of afterlife. Jews believe that there are two deaths. One is the actual death of the body. When you stop breathing. The other is when the last person speaks your name. His life will go in - in some ways because you will speak his name. You will carry on his passion and the best of him.

Thanks for the scripture. They were the right words at the right time. I'm really, really sorry.