Today we're going to do things a little different around here. Today I'm going to share a story with you. But this time it's not going to be my own story about how I'm craving Chipotle and want to give paper cuts to all the annoying people of the world. Instead, I'm introducing you to a friend of mine who has a pretty powerful and moving message that, unfortunately, too many people in this world can relate to.
I guess maybe I should give you a little background on this friend of mine though huh. His name is Michael Saltzman and I met him on the very first day I arrived at college. And that moment still remains as one of those short bursts of memory I can so easily take myself back to.
From that day on we somehow formed one of the oddest yet most honest and deep relationships I've ever had. He liked me, I didn't like him. I liked him, he didn't like me. We both liked each other, we both hated each other. We had conversations that carried on for hours, we boycotted speaking to each other for months (and more recently) years at a time. But even through all of that craziness I have still always respected the hell out of him. And that's why one random day a few weeks ago, after not having spoken a word to him in over a year, I made a donation in support of an organization he's currently raising money for. An organization that is so near and dear to him because of the very story he's about to share with you today. It's a heartbreaking one but it's also one that's intended to provide a means for awareness. I hope you are as moved by it as I was and choose to lend a helping hand. Enjoy.
4:17 – to those living out their lives around me? An irrelevant and arbitray time. To me? Definition. Definition of belief, definition of connection, definition of self. On a transitionary afternoon in November of 1998, hunched over a bowl of chicken noodle soup at a friend’s kitchen table, 4:17 PM struck the clock and my attention like a crack of thunder. Lacking understanding or clarity, I frigidly stared at the clock with an extreme level of discomfort and uneasiness, frozen in space and time, unsure why I was so possessed by this randomness. Later that evening, my mother unbearably informed her two children that their father had lost his battle with brain cancer earlier that afternoon… at 4:17. I was 9 years old.
4:17 has since become a staple and monumental sentimentality in my life. Having lost such a signficant person, all opportunity of religious, positive, or healing belief went out the window at a very early age. However, deep within, my connection with 4:17, and the stints of 60 seconds it provides, has retained this unexplicable understanding, this unparalled level of comfort and peace that I have so painstakingly sought permanency for. I can credit this to one thing and one thing only: 4:17 has haunted me. It has found me without even looking for it. It has found me when happy and content, and it has found me in my darkest moments – simply, by showing itself. From not looking at my cell phone for hours, turning it on, and the clock reading 4:17; to going on job interviews and the office building address being 417. Instances as miniscule, disregarded, and seemingly unimportant as these have helped me define myself and contributed pieces of grandiose meaning to life’s tedious puzzle. They help fill that bottomless pit within me aggressively created at 4:17 on that afternoon in 1998. It’s a symbol. He’s with me, he always has been. In some way, shape, or form. There is nothing truer or closer to my heart than this.
At 24 years old, after 15 years of turning my back to this tragedy and not addressing it head on, I have found a means of peace. This means is through giving back and raising awareness to the cause that took my father from me. Last summer, my sister introduced me to the American Brain Tumor Association and their Breakthrough for Brain Tumor 5K in NYC, a race that ironically takes place in, you guessed it, November. I raised almost $3,000 last year. Thrilled for race day, in an unfortunate natural disaster, the race site was condemned from Hurricane Sandy. Resiliently, as I have personally had to live my life, we are back at again this November. To honor my father and my connection with 4:17, my goal is to raise $4,170. I’m hoping to move that decimal place to the right each year. I hope you will take a few minutes of your time, and selflessly contribute to this cause. If I can help one more family avoid what I was forced to endure in my childhood, then I have accomplished my goal.
If you would like to donate, please do so via my personal page at the following link:
I thank you from the very bottom of my heart for supporting me and the American Brain Tumor Association. Every dollar counts. Please help make a difference.