Circling Back to the Familar

It is really more complicated than that...


When people complain for no good reason, it makes for just so much noise in the background. When people rise up and protest for a noble cause, internal systems are quietly switched on many passionate people everywhere and emotions from years ago are brought back immediately thanks to some simple cell muscle memory and a desire to do the right thing. In the cases of an issue in the middle or lacking context, most wise folks will ignore it until it disappears like the next trendy concept or galvanizes itself into a worthy and more legitimate adventure. Gravitas aside, people need to follow their own internal clocks and fight the necessary fights and avoid being pulled into transient battles of convenience or today's determination of what is worthy of one's time.

William Christmas made a living trying to get people who were normally complacent and inert to get up and join the fight for several legitimate causes. He was an implementation consultant for three worthwhile non-governmental organizations that had an ever-growing appetite for both activists and just as important, their activitist money. The causes of today not only had to fight general public awareness, they had to fight all the new causes that continually were shoved into the forefront by celebrities and politicians. Since no disease has been cured since polio or any social ill ever been solved, the arena for social and physical causes continuously grows more and more cluttered with these initiatives, resulting in a confused public and less money for everyone. It was tough being an original charity and William knew it was getting tougher everyday. Back in the day, one could do some good showing starving children but these days, starving children were considered old school and far too despressing for the masses: there were ten times the demand with a hundred times the marketing machine so it was necessary to sell both the sizzle and the metaphorical steak in the same message.

William would purposely hold his tongue in public when presented with low level and trivial charities that were shady at best and a determent at worst to the public. Many had their points of contention but every iterative disease off the main list seemed to be created by the same group of passionate blood suckers who have made fortunes playing on the fears and sympathy of others. It grew more obvious that each charity/cause had to have been using the same marketing company: close-up pictures of adorable children with anguish everywhere was the sledgehammer method and William himself had to fight to keep his credit card number in his pocket when exposed to these ads. There was one appeal that was so heart-wrenching, so emotionally impactful that William had to blink back the tears in his eyes to see the small tagline at the end that this commericial was sponsored by the commericial lending institutions that were lobbying the public for reduced government legislation for home purchases.

While sitting in his office, critiquing all the other demands for charity, it hit him between the eyes. He was viewing charitable works as competitors: sure, some of these things are a bit shady but local television investigative teams will eventually figure that out and some of these are equally worthwhile but charity isn't a business, or it shouldn't be viewed as one.

He hit his phone speaker button and said, "Sheila, please cancel all my appointments today. I have to deal with something."

In her entire career with William Christmas, Sheila had never heard any sentence remotely similar to that one. "Okay, it is a busy day but I will staff a few things to some of your lieutenants and reschedule the rest."

All she heard was "Thanks, Sheila" and the line was dropped.

William Christmas left everything is his office and walked out the door. He left his cell phone, his PDA, his briefcase full of funding requests and RFP's, his briefing papers and numerous semi-related documents that had something to do with something. William didn't want to make a decision as his head was full of conflicting thoughts and he felt it was best for him if he got out of the office before he did something or said something too stupid to ever recover.

Luckily for William, it was Friday and the weekend was open. His kids were relocated all over the country and his social life was mainly hypothetical. He had divorced without a lot of emotion and strife a decade ago so there were not a lot of demands put on his time during the off hours. The children were all well entrenched with their young children and their social demands would keep them hopping. He would circle back with the children at the end of a weekend and have a brief but sincere chat about comings and goings. He learned many years ago that giving advice had to be defined as not giving actual advice (even when pressed for it) but to listen and generally support his children's actions.

As he drove out of the parking garage, the epiphany about the charity business was motivating him to awaken from this current malaise. Was it a series of events that caused him to wake up? Was it a particular issue or person that drove so deep under his skin he needed to punch out? Or was it just one of those things? He grew tired of asking himself these questions and determined now was not the time to figure this out. It was time to hit the road and clear his head.

The brutal truths were self-evident: there was always pain and suffering in the world but up until a few years ago, these charities had to comply with the fundraising machine ranging from a spokesperson and scheduled fund drives. The technology today forced that elegant model on its collective and well-eaming ears: websites popped up with direct funding sources, streaming video was pushed out on an individual basis with focused messages and smart-bomb fund raising strategies. The bitch of it was that these charities were going over his head to the individual and his role of moral filter and trendsetter were coming to a screeching halt. All it was going to take was one wildly successful fund drive by a start-up charity and all of the groups in his stable would realize that they didn't need William Christmas and his back of the house handling as the real action was going to be virtual, immediate and without him.

As he drove, he needed to figure out the future of charity-based money harvesting as the smart money was not going to be on the next big thing but the next big thing after that. The next few years were going to be a cleansing; the old school charities would be asleep at the switch and their own livelihood would be threatened within a few dollars of their existance. The future of the Internet was just the start and he needed to get ahead of the game right now: not after he shuttered his calling centers, his mail rooms and his lobbyists in Washington. He needed to start playing offense and he needed to start playing that game today. For the rest of the afternoon, William sat in a coffee shop thinking about the future. His thoughts were sketched out longhand and he felt comforted by the tactile approach of pen to paper. His doodles wandered all over his legal pad: arrows drawn dozens of ways between all the known funding sources, both traditional and non-traditional, to all the known spigots of potential revenue. He literally would draw himself into corners with no epiphany in sight and upon that realization, he would crumple up the paper and begin again with hopes of a clean sheet of paper would show him the way. As he began his tenth diagram, a voice from behind startled him into present.

"You appear to be deep in thought," said a female voice. It was officially familiar and of a pleasant tone.

"I am," said William Christmas without looking around. "I am trying to think about something that hasn't happened yet."

"Are you sure it is going to happen?"

"It is going to happen. There is absolutely no chance that this issue will not happen."

The double negative hung over his head like a big grammatical matzoh: he knew that what he lost in style points were being paid back with impact points and if dug up E.B. White, he had every confidence he would have concurred. William still hadn't looked around and decided it was a better strategy to see if the mysterious female sat down to pursue this conversation face to face."

"You seem confident," said the voice but the source of the sound was on the move. She was heading to face him and he fought every urge to spin around to see how she looked.

A blur of navy blue appeared in the corner of his eye and as his head remained forward, she walked into his gaze and waited for an invitation to sit down. After a moment, he waved his hand to invite her to sit down. Finally, he saw her and she seemed somewhat familar. Washington, D.C. was a town of many attractive businesswomen and she certainly fit the bill: she continued to seem familar so William Christmas assumed that they had met sometime, somewhere and she was just being cordial and somewhat curious. He was at the age which resulted in start-up conversations with women that were based with previous meetings and her interest in him had to be founded in a previous meeting because he had never picked up anyone without a net and her demeanor was too straight-forward without some backstory.

"How have you been?" asked William Christmas. The question implied he knew her from somewhere in his past and this question would finally clear up that matter.

"I have been fine." That is all she said: no elaboration, no come-hither looks but just a gentle but vague familiarity.

William frowned inside: he had no time for pleasantries when it came to word games and decided it was time to come clean.

"I hate to be a jerk, as you seem familar, but do I know you?"

"Not really," said the professionally suited woman. "But in a sense, you do."

"Well, at the very least, thank you for sitting down," said William. "Do you want a cup of coffee?"

The blue suited woman sat down and said, "No thanks, but I will sit down and chat you up."

William didn't know if she was flirting with him but he instinctively pulled in his gut. He was luckily wearing one of his new suits so he knew he was as prepared as he could be, considering the circumstances. As he make his internal inventory, he realized that she didn't answer the question about knowing him or not.

William took a sip of his large coffee and said in a pleasant manner, "And speaking of chatting, you failed to answer my question about knowing each other."

She smiled again and said, "We have met several times."

William was pleased but disappointed. If she hadn't known him, he would have actually been credited for his animal magnetism. But considering his social life was mainly hypothetical, he was happy that she was actually real and apparently stable. She began to talk to explain that they had met at several conferences; William began to decide whether or not to further engage her into a potential and future social interaction but was snapped back into reality when she said the magic word.

"Excuse me," said William Christmas. "What did you say?"

"I thought you heard me. I didn't want to interrupt your trains of thought. As I said, 'I was impressed with your recent speech on the creeping nature of instant charities but was wondering what you thought about some significant federal leglislation.'"


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