Sometimes things in life can be both easy and hard. There are challenges we face, people we know, or situations to resolve that have aspects that are both worrisome and trouble free. This entry is an example of that.
As part of my wife and I’s 30 Day Blog Challenge, the blog assignment for this evening is to write about your best friend (that is not a spouse or significant other). This is where the easy and hard part comes in.
As I’ve said before, I’ve been blessed to have an incredible circle of friends that have supported me and guided me through the years. They’ve been with me through thick and thin, and it’s a wonderful feeling knowing I am surrounded by such wonderful and amazing people. The hardest part of this entry, however, is selecting one individual to highlight as my ‘best friend’. The idea harkens thoughts of third grade and of raising one individual person over all others, but that’s not what I want to do at all. Every one of my friends possesses unique characteristics and traits without which I feel I would be lost. I honestly feel all my friends - my true friends, those that make up my inner circle of support and those I consider family - are great.
So as my way of dealing with this dilemma, I am going to fall back on my marketing background.
In marketing and advertising, there is a concept of top of mind awareness (TOMA). TOMA, simply put, is the brand you think of first regarding a particular type of product or service. For example, someone asks you what soda you like, the list of brands you rattle through are those that have top of mind awareness for you.
In trying to determine the subject of this post, I did something similar. I asked myself, “If I were impacted by a sudden tragedy in my life, who would be the first of my friends I would call?” Dark, I know. But this question serves as a good litmus test to help determine who in your life you consider a friend and who gets relegated to the category of casual acquaintance.
The first person that came to my mind is my friend Jeff Wilson. I don’t know where to begin with Jeff except to say I’m the little brother he never had. As far as guy stuff goes, he and I are cut from the same cloth. We’re both sports geeks. We’re both music geeks. We’re both big kids raising kids of our own. And since he and I have both travelled down the road of divorce with young children, we share a bond that allows us to get each other that much more.
Jeff is one of the most fun guys I know. He can be the life of the party when he wants to be. He also knows, however, when it’s time to be cool and casual. He seems to know just about everybody, too. If you need help with finding tickets to a show, he has a guy he can call. Going to that new restaurant that’s opening? Chances are he knows the owner. He’s well connected and influential, but in the most unassuming and non-egotistical way. He’s just all around cool.
But what makes me look at Jeff with eyes of admiration is his sense of selflessness and generosity. Jeff has been a role model to me, leading by example when it comes to giving of oneself for other people. In 2005, before I had the opportunity of meeting him, he organized in Tampa the first of what would become an annual event for Lyrics for Life, a charity organization founded by Sister Hazel that is dedicated to supporting research and programs for pediatric cancer. He did this out of pure inspiration for the cause. He was driven by his desire to make a difference and help out in any way he could. I attended that event and it was spectacular.
The following year, his son was diagnosed with a Wilms tumor, a type of kidney cancer that occurs in children. I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like for a parent to hear the prognosis of their child being diagnosed with cancer, but I can tell you Jeff handled the situation with grace and determined resolve. He rallied around the love of his family and friends to provide both the best treatment and support environment for his son Tanner. He shaved his head in solidarity as Tanner began to lose his hair because of the chemo. He never laid blame on anyone or anything. He took his son by the hand, and they faced the adversity together.
Tanner is doing well and is symptom free. He is a healthy and active middle-schooler and the apple of his father’s eye.
Jeff’s been my drinking buddy, my road trip companion, my sounding board, my confidant, and everything in between. Most importantly, he’s been my inspiration in terms of charitable work and selfless giving. He’s the type of friend everyone wants to have and very few people can be. It’s so easy to be around him and hard not to like him. I am thankful to have him, as I am all my friends, in my life, and I know my life would be a lot less interesting without him.