I used to think that I would have been much more suited to a different time. As a millennial raised on "Back to the Future" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark", things seemed to be at once simpler and somehow more delightfully technicolor in 1885 or 1935 than they they were in 1990s rural-suburbia western Pennsylvania, where I grew up. In the old days, it seemed to me, villains were simple and easy to defeat in three acts over an hour and a half on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Like most other white males of my generation, it was also offered up to me directly and indirectly from all directions that I was special, and so I easily fancied myself a quick hero in the mold of Marty McFly or Indiana Jones. That feeling, as it turns out, isn't called heroism. It's called privilege.
The internet was born for many of us in the 90's and 00's. It brought free music, Instant Messages and, eventually, Facebook. It was innocent and carefree in the way most new relationships are. Then, in the 10s, it turned on us. We got cat-fished, the algorithms dialed in their money-making models, and we got Trump. Now in 2020, after a once-in-a-hundred years series of rapid-fire fresh-hells capped most directly by the COVID pandemic but most painfully by the realization that we are more divided, racist, and wary of one another than we'd ever dreamed, more often than not it feels like we've turned on ourselves. The foundation for how we stand up as a people has shifted perceptibly, and the liquefaction of the common ground we imagined to be our shared connection has left me, for one, feeling completely disoriented. If I'm being candid, I was really only prepared for Biff Tannen and a couple of Nazis with bad aim. I feel outgunned, outmanned, outnumbered...etc, but more than anything, I have absolutely no idea what happens next.
We sell backpacks made from recycled plastic bottles. Damn good ones. They're beautiful, useful, and the best thing going in backpacks for the environment, but unfortunately this leaves me ill-equipped to tell the future, so the best I can share is what I've seen.
At Day Owl, we end each week's all-hands meeting with five minutes of gratitude. If somebody helped you out a little in the week prior, it's a chance to call them out publicly to let them know you appreciate them. It's the type of tiny little thing that feels awkward and forced at first, but the more I did, the more I enjoyed. Now it's my favorite five minutes of the week, because it's in these five minutes every Thursday that I rest my hopes for humanity in 2021.
When we're grateful together, even for a few minutes, we let our guards down as a team. We leave defensiveness from disagreement in the meeting before behind. We stop, even for a moment, and appreciate what's in front of us and one another. We recognize where we've been-both the struggle it was to get here, and the small triumph in having reached the present together. That reminds us of our connection. It's where we find our common ground. As it turns out, this tiny pause to appreciate one another isn't such a small thing-it's everything.
So this Thursday, despite Black Friday sales and holiday shopping and turkey with one or 10 people in your life, as you take the one day a year we dedicate to gratitude, know that it is more than just a quick thank you before we eat. These moments are when we remember that we are human together.
We're so grateful for that, for you, and for being alive right now.
Ian and the Team