With the recent Lance Armstrong scandal and Manti Te’o and the Congressional stalemate over fixing the economy and the Wall Street meltdown a few years ago and all of the other mayhem in those that are often looked to for leadership, this is a common refrain these days, “there are no more heroes.” Of course, if you look back over history, you will see this refrain mentioned over and over. I think in every age, there is a feeling that the heroes of yore have vanished. And here we are again.
I say this is wrong. I say there are more heroes than ever. They just do not get the recognition they deserve. I think there have always been more heroes than people know. I think that we, as a society, as humanity, often look in the wrong places for our heroes, which is why we do not see them.
Let me tell you a story about some of my personal heroes. It’s kind of long, but I hope you will enjoy and maybe get a little something from it.
Starting back in early 2009, I began working around 100 hours a week to build up our new businesses, Soul Of Miami and Life Is Art, while holding down a pretty cool full-time job. I was fired up and excited about forging ahead. Unfortunately, no matter who you are, or how passionate you are, everyone has a limit and in June of 2011, I burned out. Physical and mental collapse.
Did I slow down? Of course not. That would assume more intelligence than I am due credit for. Not only did I not slow down, I accelerated. Later that year, I founded yet another business, PhilanthroFest, creating even more work. More on why this is relevant in a bit.
Now, I have carried a camera in my hand for decades. I guess I got the bug from my dad, who is also a great shutterbug. In all those years, I have never lost a camera. Dropped, broken, burned, spilled martinis on, dumped in the toilet, yes, all of those. But, never lost one. I just do not lose stuff, usually. In 2012, I lost my camera. Three times. Fortunately, I found it again (or rather, others found it and returned it). Unfortunately, I only found it two times.
The final time I lost it was at our 2013 PhilanthroFest Launch Party, when I was running around like crazy putting it together and cleaning up. At some point, I set the camera who-knows-where, and totally forgot about it in all the hubbub. For all I know, it may still be sitting there somewhere, waiting for my return, but nobody has ever found it.
“What the heck, James?” you might say. Why, after nearly 40 years of carrying a camera all over the country, did I lose it so many times last year? That is what the first part of the story is about. I was so burned out, operating so far outside of my abilities, that I just could not keep track of anything, even my beloved camera. When I lost it, that was the wakeup call that I needed to start working on changing my ways.
Needless to say, we could not afford to replace it. Nothing to do really, except move on. even though it meant we could no longer take photos for Soul Of Miami. What are ya gonna do? As it happened, the holidays came along. Everyone was busy doing that and not really many events came up, anyway.
Soon enough it was January 15th, and we were having our first PhilanthroFest Steering Committee meeting of 2013. I will pause here to say that the PF committee members are also some of my real heroes, those this story is not about that directly. These are such dedicated and smart people, who have joined with us to help change the world, I always end up with a huge smile plastered on my face all meeting long (and I usually hate meetings).
In any case, there I was moving through the agenda when my star, Estrellita Sibila, interrupted me and said Daniella Veras had an announcement. I thought she was going to tell us about some new sponsor or something. Instead, she informed me that she had started a fund to replace the camera and put the word out to our friends and they had raised some money for it. Not just some money, as she so understatedly put it. They raised a LOT of money.
I was literally dumbstruck. It is hard enough to surprise me, but this had really come totally out of the blue. Not only was it spectacularly unexpected, but the amount of money was just amazing. I mean, I know everyone is struggling, and all of my friends are already donating of their time and talent to numerous good causes. Yet, they reached into their pockets again and just gave so freely. Even writing this now, it is difficult to explain my surprise and feelings of appreciation. Needless to say, Annette cried. We had enough to replace both the camera and the flash attachment with the newest version of each, a Canon G15 and Canon Speedlite 270EX II Flash with some left over to buy the warranty that I always need. It was amazing.
So, for those of you who think there are no more heroes, here are a bunch of them that you can look up to for inspiration:
Alex de Carvalho, Alexandra Figueredo, Alexis Guillen, Aleyda Mejia, Allen Tito, Annush & Hugh, Anthony Bayona, Art Herrera, Blanca Mejia, Brenda Leguisamo, Deborah Zinn, Eleazar Delgado, Estrellita, Jami Reyes, Janie Coffee, Jeff Cohen, Jennylee Molina, Jorge Fernandez, Joshua Kingston, Kenneth Wilcox, Liza Walton, Lorena Lama, Maria de los Angeles, Marlena Hasday, Monique Hayes, Nancy Richmond, Nathalia Bogani, Natascha OS, Rick Morgan, Sebastian Rusk, Steve Roitstein, Toma Rusk, Vicky Cheung.
This is me saying thank you so much to all of them. You all inspire me every day.
Those are just a few of my many heroes. Hopefully I will be able to thank them all someday. Comment below who some of your heroes are.